Green Bay Packers receiver Allen Lazard makes changes off the field to improve his production on it
GREEN BAY – Allen Lazard was freshly back from an ankle injury and determined to make an impression. It had been two weeks since the Green Bay Packers receiver was on the field, two weeks for him to sit and ponder his fourth NFL season, and how he hoped it would finish.
Now he was ready. As the Packers prepared to host the Los Angeles Rams at Lambeau Field in November, Lazard wanted to use the nationally televised stage to springboard the rest of his season. Instead, he had only 13 receiving yards. Even more, he caught only two of the six passes Aaron Rodgers threw to him. A springboard, this was not.
The wasted week gnawed on Lazard.
“Just the opportunities that I left out there,” Lazard said. “There were a few plays where the ball was going right through my hands. I wasn’t seeing it well, I didn’t have my steps right, I didn’t feel comfortable running these routes.”
To that point, Lazard’s fourth season wasn’t what he wanted it to be. He had only 17 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns in nine games, short of the breakout season he’d hoped for when 2021 began. So he decided to set a new path.
Lazard established a “discipline chart” for himself after his clunker against the Rams. With five regular-season games plus the playoffs remaining, about two-and-a-half months of football if the Packers made a Super Bowl run, he considered what was necessary to close his fourth season stronger than it started.
It didn’t take long for Lazard to realize there were changes he needed to make off the field to improve his production on it. He started eating three, maybe four meals consistently each day, instead of snacking at all hours. He calmed his mind by reading books, currently thumbing through "Karma: A Yogi’s Guide to Crafting Your Destiny." Then there was the sleep element.
Lazard, a restless spirit, prefers to be active by nature. Shutting his mind off at the end of a day has long been a challenge. He rededicated himself to sleep, knowing he needed at least six hours each night for max performance, and striving for more.
“The closest I can get to eight,” Lazard said, “the better.”
The changes made a difference as Lazard closed the regular season. Starting with six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown a week later against the Chicago Bears, Lazard played the best stretch of his career. He finished with 21 catches and 290 yards in his last five games, including five touchdowns.
Lazard’s emergence has given the Packers' offense a piece it has often gone without, a consistent second receiver behind Davante Adams. His reliability in that role is especially important as the Packers prepare to host the San Francisco 49ers in Saturday night’s NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field without Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
After Valdes-Scantling injured his back in the Packers' final regular-season game at Detroit, he was listed on Thursday’s injury report as doubtful.
Lazard’s importance to the Packers is nothing new. For years, he has been their enforcer, one of the NFL’s best blocking receivers. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said Lazard’s blocking has helped make him a better receiver.
“He’s been a premier blocker in this league now for a couple years,” Hackett said, “somebody that people are nervous about, and it’s starting to pay off. Because people are nervous he’s going to block him, and now it’s going to open some things down the field. We always talk about using the run to step up the play pass, and you can incorporate him a little bit more.
“He’s done such a good job. He’s such a smart player.”
Lazard had changes on the field, too. A more consistent routine with Rodgers helped. Rodgers was away from the team in late October because of COVID-19. When he returned, a broken pinky toe kept him from practicing. Just as Rodgers began to play more snaps, Lazard was injured against Seattle and didn’t play against Minnesota.
The cumulative effect meant Lazard missed a solid month working without his quarterback. As they’ve taken more repetitions together, Lazard said he has been more in tune with Rodgers.
“It’s been huge,” Lazard said, “just building that trust with Aaron, knowing when I’m running routes there’s a better chance of him throwing me the ball in certain situations and everything. And really just locking in, focusing on those smaller details with my routes, situations, what he’s thinking, and ultimately just going out there and making plays. I think that’s really what it comes down to.
“I think a lot of the plays I’ve made in this back half of the season aren’t anything spectacular or out of the ordinary. It’s just doing the little things right and staying focused and locked in. Just continue doing that going forward, especially in these last few games.”