Eddie Lacy and the Packers Ride Again
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Everyone in Green Bay wants to put the 2015 Eddie Lacy season in the ol’ rear-view mirror. Maybe everyone should.
Because here is Lacy, on Tuesday, on the first day of training camp for any NFL team, at an unspecified lighter weight (not the fat slob he was last year), looking very interested. He bolts out of his stance during blocking drills and attacks the defender. He looks good. And the fans on the practice fields next to the Don Hutson Center are so excited. One yells from the bleachers: “We love you, Eddie!” Short memory. Not many loved him last December.
So… This is the first stop of The MMQB’s training camp tour, and the microscope is out for Lacy. Not just how he looks, but how he talks, and how his bosses feel about him, and how he can rebound as a player after a bad third season in the NFL last year.
Remember last year? In the playoffs at Arizona, Lacy was off to the races, running 60 yards with a nose for the end zone, when he started looking around for someone to catch him, and he went down inside the 10. Lacy went from being a great prospect to being a great suspect. Two years ago he averaged 95.8 yards rushing per game over his last eight games; last year, that number disintegrated to 53.8 yards per game over the last five, including the playoff embarrassment at Arizona.
Lacy was in full deflective mode Tuesday. “I just had a bad year,” he told Wisconsin reporters after his first practice of the summer. “I don’t know anyone who’s played a long time and never had a bad year. I just gotta bounce back.”
Lacy wouldn’t talk about his weight, from either last year or this year. “I’m tired of talking about it,” he said. “I hear about it everywhere I go. I’m done with it.” But what has he really said? On the first day of camp, the Packers just wanted the story to go away. What we know is: Lacy weighed multiple pounds over his playing weight (around 235) last year. And on Tuesday, after working in the P90X system over the spring and summer, he looked more like his Alabama self.
How near his regular playing weight of 235? He looked about 235 or 240, but we don’t know. No one here was providing answers about Lacy’s weight.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Lacy could not play at his 2015 weight in 2016. In his office Tuesday afternoon, McCarthy was philosophical about Lacy. “The only thing he worries about is disappointing his teammates,” McCarthy told me. “He’s a great teammate, he understands football, and he’s ready to come out and play well this year.”
I asked: “But didn’t he disappoint his teammates last year, playing so heavy?”
“That’s a good question,” McCarthy said. “There’s great accountability on this team. Eddie has come in with a great attitude.”
An adoring public will be done with it here if he plays well. One other point he should worry about: The Pack’s other running back of prominence, James Starks, is a very popular player with the coaching staff and in the locker room. If Lacy struggles, or has his weight fluctuate as it did last year, McCarthy will bench him and play Starks. Lacy’s in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, and this is his prove-it season. If he doesn’t, and if he lets down a Super Bowl contender again, he’ll be wasting a lot of talent. And he’ll be killing his future prospects with another team.
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Five Things I Thought About Green Bay
1. Can’t get enough of kids and players and bikes. I know, I know. The scenes of small children lining their bikes up and handing them to players so they can ride 300 yards after practice at camp instead of walking, while the kids jog alongside, is very old news. Cliché. Overdone. But it’s also a beautiful tradition. I watched Tuesday morning as a young girl (12, she said) handed her bike to Lacy. He got on it, and rode slowly from the practice field across Oneida Avenue to the entrance to the locker room. She beamed. He beamed. Amateur photographers lining the sidewalk beamed. Just a cute way of life at Packer camp. It should never die.
2. Biggest pressure points: To me, if the starting corners are Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins (and vet Sam Shields will have something to say about that), they’d be starting a classic Ted Thompson draft-and-play-the-kids-early group. Randall and Rollins were the first- and second-round picks, respectively, in 2015, the first a safety-corner from Arizona State, the second a four-year basketball player (and one in football) at Miami (Ohio). Typical, gutsy move by the Packers, playing so many kids. “I like playing young people,” said Thompson. “There’s such an energy to your building when you have a lot of young players playing.” Randall showed the ability to be a natural cornerback last year, and Rollins was surprisingly fearless, particularly breaking on the ball.
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3. Root for Peter Mortell. He’s the free-agent punter for the Packers trying to unseat Tim Masthay. Probably a long shot. But he was born and bred in Green Bay. His dad is the scoreboard timekeeper at Lambeau Field. His grandfather was the scoreboard timekeeper at Lambeau Field before then. Waaaaay too early to tell, but Masthay out-hang-timed Mortell in Tuesday’s first practice.
4. Great point, Tom Silverstein. In our post-practice Facebook Live chat, the veteran Milwaukee Journal Sentinel beat man told me the Pack will have great motivation this year, with about 12 key players on the final years of their contracts—including Lacy and three offensive-line starters. Love that point. They’ll be out for their next (and in some cases, last) NFL contracts in 2017, and that will benefit the 2016 Packers.
5. If the receiver group gets straight, no reason why Green Bay can’t win it all. That’s assuming a lot of things about the defense. But I come away thinking that if Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers (I might make him just a third-down player, by the way, at age 36, to try to get more quality rushes out of him and maybe another season or two) can be as good on the edge as they should, the defense will be good enough. Hard not to think they’ll be playing deep into January.
Bonus Thing. Come to Green Bay. Visit Titletown Brewery. Visit everything. On Tuesday night, videographer John DePetro of The MMQB and I sat on the roof deck of Titletown and pondered life, staring out at the ancient train station that Johnny Blood and Curly Lambeau used in the early NFL days to travel to rivalry games at Chicago and other spots. This place is just a beautiful reminder of how life in the United States used to be lived.
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