The Packers expect halfback Eddie Lacy to be in their starting lineup Sunday against Chicago despite his re-injured ankle.
Lacy has been playing on a sprained ankle for several weeks and lately has been working off a schedule in which he’s had his foot in a protective boot for most of the week, then he practices some on Friday and plays Sunday.
That was his schedule last week, though he aggravated the injury late in the third quarter and did not return to the game against Pittsburgh. Lacy again sat out today, but coach Mike McCarthy said he thinks Lacy will practice Friday, though practicing Friday is not a requirement for him playing.
“(Lacy) is not going to be one that’s not going to play if he’s not 100 percent,” said Alex Van Pelt, the Packers’ running backs coach. “Eighty percent of Eddie is still darn good. Whatever he’s at, when you ask him, ‘Hey, you going to be there on Sunday?’ He says, ‘Absolutely, wouldn’t miss it.’”
Lacy will play an important role in what is in essence a playoff game because the Packers will be facing the NFL’s last-ranked run defense. The return of quarterback Aaron Rodgers puts Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker in a quandary, because if he brings up an extra safety to stop Lacy, as every team has done since Rodgers’ injury, then he risks giving up big plays to Rodgers in the passing game.
That threat wasn’t nearly as great with the Packers’ backups at quarterback.
The Bears have suffered from key injury losses on the defensive line (Henry Melton) and linebacker (D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs), though Briggs returned from a broken shoulder last week.
Regardless, their run defense has been horrendous. Their average of 161.5 rushing yards allowed per game is almost 26 yards worse than Atlanta’s No. 31-ranked run defense. And the Bears are giving up a staggering 5.4 yards a carry.
“The (league rankings) are what they are,” Van Pelt said. “Doesn’t mean you’re going to go out and rush for 180 yards or whatever it is. Getting Briggs back helps tremendously for that team. He’s the leader of that defense and plays like it. He didn’t miss a beat watching the tape from the Philly game (last week), made a ton of tackles.
“He knows our system as well as any defender probably out there. That’s going to help them right there, just having him back in the lineup. But in our business, it’s not about them, it’s about us, how we’re going to be determined to run the football. That will determine how well we do.”
James Starks, the Packers’ backup halfback, could take on a key role Sunday if Lacy aggravates his injury, as he did last week. Starks has only 78 carries for the season but finished with 10 rushes last week because Lacy wasn’t able to finish the game.
“(Starks) is fine, he’s healthy, exteremely fresh, shows when he runs,” Van Pelt said. “Any time you watch him run the ball this year – I don’t think there was any game other than Washington where he had extensive carries, so now’s the time we’re going to need him.”