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Packers can't count on Allen Lazard returning from core-muscle injury anytime soon

GREEN BAY – Based on what happened with tight end Robert Tonyan last year, the Green Bay Packers were smart to act quickly with the core-muscle injury wide receiver Allen Lazard suffered against the New Orleans Saints last Sunday night.

Lazard had the injury repaired this week by Philadelphia-based specialist William Meyer, according to ESPN. Meyer, who is the go-to surgeon for pro sports teams when it comes to core-muscle injuries, has operated on several Packers.

In no case did anyone return to practice sooner than four weeks and in some cases, it took much longer.

Tonyan suffered the injury against Dallas last year and tried to play through it the rest of the season. He never got back to 100% and had a disappointing year.

As soon as the season ended, Meyer operated on him and he is off to a good start to the 2020 season.

Surgeons in the field have said it’s generally a four-to-six week injury, but other factors can make recovery longer, including playing wide receiver, which requires so much use of core muscles with all the sharp breaks in and out of pass routes.

The Packers are not saying how long Lazard will be out, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say he won’t be back until after the halfway point of the season and possibly not until late November or early December.

“He’s a tough guy, man,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “He’s as tough as they come and that's what you love about the guy. He is a gritty competitor and, you know, it’s unfortunate. But it is what it is and now it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and make their mark.”

Packers receiver Allen Lazard (13) underwent surgery for a core-muscle injury. Tight end Robert Tonyan (85) tried playing through one last season.

Lazard had career highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (146) along with a touchdown in the victory over the Saints. It’s unclear when he got hurt, but he was in the game on the Packers’ final drive and was on the hands team for New Orleans’ onside kick with 32 seconds left.

"We couldn’t pinpoint when it happened,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “But I’ll tell you, he had a heck of a game.”

The quickest any Packers player came back from the injury was cornerback Damarious Randall, who had surgery Oct. 20, 2016, started to practice Nov. 10 and returned to action Nov. 27. He wound up missing four games.

On the other hand, Meyer operated on receiver Geronimo Allison the first week of November in 2018 and he missed the rest of the season. Another Packers receiver, Greg Jennings, had core-muscle surgery early in the 2012 season and missed seven games.

Some of the skill players around the league who have had the surgery recently include Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., Philadelphia Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, Browns running back Kareem Hunt and former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.

None of them came back in six weeks or fewer.

Beckham played through the injury last year and had surgery after the season, Jackson suffered it the first week of November and did not play again, Hunt had it in late August and was ready to practice when he was reinstated from suspension Oct. 21 and Freeman had it in mid-October of 2018 and did not return.

In Lazard’s case, much will depend on what Meyer had to repair and how quickly the receiver heals. The Packers won’t be able to count on him anytime soon.

The one advantage the Packers have is that they have a limitless amount of moves in which they can bring a player back from injured reserve. So, even if it takes eight weeks for Lazard to come back, they won’t have used up their designated-to-return options.

Illness keeps Jordan Love out of practice

It's unknown what illness kept Jordan Love from Friday's practice, but the Packers did not place their rookie quarterback on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

Any illness forcing a player to miss time on the field could be viewed with especially intense scrutiny this season. The coronavirus pandemic has gripped all parts of society, including the NFL this week when the Tennessee Titans had 15 positive tests (eight players, seven team personnel) over a four-day period. The slew of positive tests forced postponement of the Titans' game against the Pittsburgh Steelers until Week 7.

The Packers have had no known regular-season encounters with COVID-19, and that continued with Love not being added to the list.

"I think we're always kind of in the loop," coach Matt LaFleur said Friday.

Linebacker Christian Kirksey (pectoral), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee) and receiver Allen Lazard (core) also missed Friday's practice.

Defensive lineman Kenny Clark was limited again Friday because of his groin injury. Outside linebackers Za'Darius Smith and Rashan Gary, along with rookie tight end Josiah Deguara, were limited with ankle injuries. 

Receiver Davante Adams was limited with his hamstring injury. Adams has said he will not return until he's 100 percent, so being limited might cast doubt on his availability for Monday's game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The Falcons continued to have a lengthy injury report. Safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) along with outside linebacker Takk McKinley (groin) were among defenders who did not practice Friday. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (hip) was limited in practice after missing Thursday. Receivers Julio Jones (hamstring) and Calvin Ridley (ankle/calf) were also limited. 

Tackling woes

The Packers did not tackle well as a team and dime safety Will Redmond had an especially rough night trying to bring down Saints running back Alvin Kamara. But so did some of the other defensive backs.

Secondary coach Jerry Gray said you can use the excuse that it was Kamara or you can work to make sure it won’t happen again. He said if opponents see that you can’t tackle, they’re going to attack you.

"Like I’ve talked to Will a little bit about tackling, he was like, what can you do better?” Gray said. “Well, just grab a guy. Kamara’s a great football player.  It’s not many guys that we’re going to face like that, but it happened to be on Sunday night and the rest of the world watching.

“When you miss tackles in space, guess what? You’ve got to come back and you’ve got to work on it. We’ve been a pretty good tackling team in space, but he (Kamara) made us look pretty bad. It’s our job to say, you know what, this is not going to happen anymore. Take it on yourself, take responsibility for it.”