Jerry Gray has spent 33 of his 57 years on earth as an NFL player or coach.

Other than the seven seasons he spent playing cornerback for the Rams after they made him their first-round pick in 1985, Gray's longest continuous stint with one team was his six years in Minnesota as Mike Zimmer's defensive backs coach.

That stint ended with a difficult conversation after last season. It also set in motion the process by which Gray landed in Green Bay as defensive backs coach for the front-running Packers who lead the Vikings by three games in the NFC North.

"Coach Zimmer, he decided to go in a different direction," Gray said in the lead-up to the Nov. 1 game between the Vikings and Packers. "It happens. This league is about, 'Can you adjust, can you do the things you need to do?' That was his decision to part ways.

"I thanked him for the six years I was there and, what's funny is I didn't know [Packers coach] Matt LaFleur. I didn't know [Packers defensive coordinator] Mike Pettine. I didn't know any of these guys over here."

But Gray had enough connections leaguewide that friends began swarming Green Bay with calls on Gray's behalf once last year's Packers defensive backs coach, Jason Simmons, moved on to Carolina.

"And all of a sudden, I get a chance to come to Green Bay," Gray said. "To me, I think God works things out for the best. At times, when one door closes, somebody else says, 'Hey, look, this guy has done a great job against me. Let's see what he does over here.' I was fortunate enough to land on my feet and get on a good team."

Gray said the biggest difference in working for the 40-year-old offensive-minded LaFleur and the 64-year-old defensive-minded Zimmer is the amount of freedom he has coaching. Zimmer is known for expertise on defensive backs.

"When I get around Matt, he's more loose," Gray said. "The funny part is I'm the oldest guy on the staff over here. I can go in and talk about experiences and Matt will take those experiences and at least listen to them.

"I'm not saying they didn't over in Minnesota. I'm just talking about what I'm doing here in Green Bay."

And, no, Gray said he's not one to gloat that he's in first place in the division while his old team sits in last place despite beating the Packers last week.

"When you're with a group of guys for six years, you have ties to guys like Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris — good young kids that you taught everything that you know about how to play the game," Gray said. "When you play against them, it's kind of a different feeling. You're so close to them, but now you have a job to go and compete with them."