Allen Lazard moving up Packers' WR ranks while retaining zest for special teams

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GREEN BAY - Playing time for Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard has been rising every week and it’s not a stretch to call him the team's No. 2 wideout.

Over the last three games, Lazard has played a total of 119 snaps, which is well above the 58 snaps for receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who is listed on the depth chart as a starter opposite Davante Adams.

Geronimo Allison has played 138 total during that span, but you could argue he is the slot receiver because he plays almost always when there are two other receivers in the game.

At the same time Lazard’s offensive snaps have increased, his special teams snaps have dipped only slightly. He has played 39.2% of special teams snaps, which ranks eighth on the team, but of the seven above him only safety Will Redmond has played anywhere close to the number of snaps from scrimmage Lazard has.

Allen Lazard of the Green Bay Packers makes a catch against the New York Giants during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 01, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“I love special teams, especially because that’s the reason why I’m here for the most part, being able to contribute to special teams early on and kind of earn my role offensively,” Lazard said. “I’m a little salty honestly that they kind of have held me back a little bit lately, but obviously I enjoy playing and getting the opportunity to be out there.”

Crosby returns to practice

Coach Matt LaFleur hugged Mason Crosby at the beginning of practice Wednesday, as the kicker had spent the early part of the week with family in Texas after the passing of his sister-in-law. Crosby was awarded the game ball Sunday after making a 47-yard field goal and four extra points.

“I feel a responsibility to be here as well, with these guys and the work that we’ve put in and the family that we are, as well,” Crosby said. “Just to be able to come back, get a few solid days in, then I’ll head down to Texas on Friday for the funeral and be there with my family there. I’m just trying to do everything I can to be the best teammate and the best brother I can.”

Veterans Tramon Williams, Jimmy Graham and Bryan Bulaga worked off to the side and wide receiver Ryan Grant did not participate due to illness.

Sitton to retire as a Packer

The Packers announced Wednesday that Josh Sitton had informed the team he was retiring from the NFL as a Packer, with whom he played eight of his 11 seasons. A fourth-round pick in 2008, Sitton became a full-time starter in 2009 and made three trips to the Pro Bowl with the Packers. He was also a part of the Super Bowl XLV championship team.

The Packers surprisingly released Sitton on cutdown day in 2016, and he eventually signed in Chicago where he made his last Pro Bowl. He finished his career in Miami in 2018, playing only one game due to injury.

LaFleur joins short list of winners

Sunday’s victory over the Giants clinched a winning record for the Packers, their first since 2016. It also put LaFleur in the same company as Mike Sherman, Mike Holmgren, Vince Lombardi and Curly Lambeau as the only coaches to accomplish that in their first season at the helm in Green Bay.

The next step for LaFleur would be to become the only one of that group to reach double-digit victories and make the postseason in his first campaign. Sherman's and Holmgren’s teams went 9-7 in 2000 and 1992, respectively, finishing third in the NFC Central. Lombardi’s 1959 team went 7-5 and finished third.

Odds are LaFleur will be the only one of the eight new head coaches this season to finish with a winning record. Cleveland and Arizona would each have to go 4-0 to end their seasons at 9-7.

Last year, three of the seven new hires had winning records, including Tennessee’s Mike Vrabel. LaFleur was the Titans’ offensive coordinator.

Since the new collective bargaining agreement changed offseason and in-season practice rules and schedules to begin the 2011 season, the league has seen 64 head-coaching changes. Of those, 23 first-year coaches directed their teams to a winning record, including LaFleur.

Since that time, just 16 reached the playoffs.

Only Denver’s Gary Kubiak won a Super Bowl in his first year, in the 2015 season.

In the NFC, only San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh has reached a conference championship game in his first season. His 49ers went 13-3 in 2011 and lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

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