Eddie Lacy may not have accomplished as much as Adrian Peterson has in his career – at least, not yet – but the Green Bay Packers are taking the same approach with their star running back as the Minnesota Vikings take with theirs.
Although Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn’t explicitly say that Lacy won’t play in the preseason – Lacy already sat out the preseason opener at Tennessee last Saturday – he made it clear Tuesday that Lacy’s workload will be minimal in the games that don’t count.
“Eddie’s gotten a lot of work [in practice]. His reps are up this year from last year, so you’ve got to pay attention to that,” McCarthy said after Tuesday’s practice. “Obviously we all understand how productive he was last year, but you also have to look at the workload he had last year playing the season.
“It’s not my goal for his workload to be very high in preseason games.”
In Minnesota, Peterson sat out the Vikings’ exhibition opener last week, and he may not play this week, either. Last summer, Peterson started just one preseason game – the third one against San Francisco. But he hasn’t had a single preseason carry since 2011.
Lacy deserves the same kid-glove treatment from McCarthy as the coach takes with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Lacy is too valuable to risk in meaningless games, and after rushing for a franchise rookie record 1,178 yards last season, everyone knows what he can do.
Last preseason, Lacy carried 18 times for 36 yards. In essentially 14 regular season games, he carried 284 times, having suffered a concussion on the opening carry of the team’s Week 2 victory over Washington and missed the next week’s game at Cincinnati. He then had 21 carries for 81 yards in the Packers’ season-ending playoff loss to San Francisco.
That’s 323 carries in his first NFL season. He had 355 carries in three years at Alabama. He had 20 or more carries in 11 of the 15 games he started and finished. At Alabama, he only had 20 carries in a game twice – 20 in the SEC title game his final season at Alabama, and 20 in the BCS championship game a month later.
“College was definitely different than now,” Lacy said Tuesday. “It’s not to say that I couldn’t handle more than 20 carries (per game) in college, but that’s just the way that the coaches decided to do it there.
“If anything, not having that many carries in college helped me out handling what I have now.”
That’s why limiting his carries makes perfect sense again. His punishing style puts him at enough risk during the season; if the coaches think his practice work is sufficient, he’s fine with that.
“I just follow whatever command I’m given,” Lacy said. Asked how much work he feels he needs to be ready for the Sept. 4 regular-season opener, Lacy replied, “That’s definitely something else that you would have to ask the coaching staff. But as far as me as a player, whatever opportunities I’m given, whether it’s [playing in] preseason or held out until the first game – which I highly doubt that – whatever work I get will definitely help as far as getting timing and rhythm down.”
Lacy said he’s noticed an uptick in his practice reps, but that the most important thing he would get out of playing in preseason is that timing.
“We practice all the time, but practice speed and game speed are completely different,” he said. “So whether it’s two reps or five reps, just getting the timing down with the offensive linemen’s blocks and me and the quarterback’s path [is important].”
Lacy came back from his Week 2 concussion but played through a painful ankle injury down the stretch last season, as he’d spend the week in a orthopedic walking boot and take limited practice reps before playing on game day.
He will take enough abuse all season long. There’s no sense subjecting him to it now. He deserves the Adrian Peterson treatment.
“I guess it’s different maybe, especially as a Year 2 guy,” Lacy said. “But the [smart] coaches always make sure that their players always are in the best position. As long as you trust and believe the process the coach is going to put you through, everything should work out.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.