Packers receiver Allen Lazard feels ready to play a full game, but team may be cautious
GREEN BAY – When he picked up his knees to run toward the end zone in New Orleans, Allen Lazard couldn’t. He was standing at the 30-yard line, football in his hands, nothing but green turf between him and the end zone.
All Lazard needed to do was run.
He couldn’t run. Instead, he lumbered. Lazard, lunging forward, felt his legs drag against the turf.
“Once I caught it and I turned,” Lazard said, “I was trying to run and I just couldn't really feel my knees be able to pick up and turn over like they used to.”
It was then, on the longest catch of his career, that Lazard suffered the worst injury he has had in football. Through high school, college and the NFL, Lazard had always been able to push through injuries. He thought he could do the same with the pain in his core he felt in New Orleans, pain he played through in the second half of that Week 3 game and later felt in spades once the adrenaline had worn off.
Just ice it and rest. He’d be back on the field in a week, Lazard thought.
Two days after returning from New Orleans, Lazard learned that plan was useless.
“I really didn't want to get surgery,” Lazard said, “and then I realized talking to the doctors and everything that I needed it very much so.”
Lazard finally returned last Sunday against Indianapolis, his first game since that Week 3 injury. He played 36 snaps at the Colts, exactly 60 percent. Lazard said he feels ready to play a full game this week against the Chicago Bears, although the Packers will still be cautious.
Coach Matt LaFleur said Thursday he’ll continue easing Lazard back into his offense after missing six games.
“I think we're going to take incremental steps with him,” LaFleur said, “but I think he felt pretty good coming out of there, and we'll see how he feels throughout the course of the week.”
Lazard is just pleased to be back playing football. It’s never easy to miss several weeks during a season, but the timing of Lazard’s surgery was especially disappointing. In New Orleans, Lazard had the finest game of his career, catching six passes for 146 yards and a touchdown.
In the weeks after, Lazard experienced excruciating pain with even the most basic functions.
“Coughing and sneezing,” Lazard said, “probably caused the most pain you could ever imagine in that regional area. So kind of just having to get used to that and being able to fight through it, I guess. And, honestly, I think coughing and sneezing kind of helps as well, because you’re activating those muscles. So it’s a little bit of a rehab in its own sense.”
Now, Lazard is done with the rehab. The Packers have an important receiver back in their offense, and while it’s uncertain what kind of role Lazard will play down the stretch, he at least adds depth to the passing game.
Lazard isn’t using his injury, or the recovery, as a crutch.
“If I'm out there on the field,” Lazard said, “I'm playing 100 percent. There's no holding back or anything, whether I stub my toe or I pull my groin or whatever it is. If I'm on the field, I'm playing 100 percent.”
Trubisky back under center
Mitch Trubisky will be back under center as the starter for the Bears on Sunday night for the first time since being benched against the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 27, Bears coach Matt Nagy said Friday. Nick Foles was injured against Minnesota on Nov. 16 but he has not been able to practice, leading to the change.
“He’s a professional, he’s gotten all the practice reps, it’s not like he’s a rookie,” Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of Trubisky. “We’re going to do what we do. And you look at it from a disguise standpoint, he hasn’t been out there, this isn’t the second time he’s gone out there against us this year, but he does have all of last year’s film so there’s some familiarity both ways. But you have to be much more conscious of the scramble.
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“When they’ve had their success, I think that was a big part of it, that he could make plays with his arm but when it wasn’t there he was able to take off and even make people miss. That’s something we have to be aware of. Fortunately, we had the sense early in the week that this was the way that it was going to go, so what we’ve done this week has been geared that way.”
Nagy says he hopes Foles can back up, but if he cannot play Tyler Bray will be Trubisky’s understudy.
Potentially protecting Trubisky will be a familiar face for the Packers as tackle Jason Spriggs may be called into to action. Bears starting left tackle Charles Leno did not practice this week with a toe injury.
Spriggs was a second-round pick of the Packers in 2016 out of Indiana but did not finish out his rookie contract. He played in 36 games in three years and signed with Chicago this offseason.
“I think that Spriggs is doing a good job,” Nagy said. “Watching him, I thought he had a really, really good training camp. He did really well. We put him in there at right tackle and he was a little banged up and he didn’t do as well on the right side. I think he’s more comfortable on the left side. So, that will be; if Leno can’t go and Spriggsy is in there, here’s a guy that you can see his fundamentals, his technique and what he’s learning through Juan (Castillo) and again, I have all the trust in him and know that he’ll go out and play well.”
Packers receiver Davante Adams (ankle) practiced on a limited basis Friday but was removed from the injury and should be good to go Sunday. Receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Achilles) did not practice and is questionable, along with center Corey Linsley (back), running back Tyler Ervin (wrist/ribs) and cornerback Kevin King (Achilles).
Packers hold firm on QB room
LaFleur has been asked at various points of the year if he may choose to change up how his quarterbacks practice or meet due to the COVID-19 protocols, and while he said earlier in the year all options would be considered, he feels good about having Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle and Jordan Love continue to work together as normal.
Prior to this weekend, New England quarterback Cam Newton has been the only starting QB to miss a game due to the virus, but Baltimore has been rocked with an outbreak this week. Reigning league MVP Lamar Jackson tested positive, as has third-string quarterback Trace McSorley and a handful of other key players.
“I think we’re pretty comfortable with everything we’re doing right now,” LaFleur said Friday. “We’re abiding by all the rules. Our quarterbacks aren’t – I mean, there’s so much space between our guys, so there’s not those close contacts. That’s something we’re always looking for. If that were to be an issue than certainly we’d adapt and adjust. But I think we’re pretty comfortable with how we’ve been doing it.”