INDIANAPOLIS - Among the Green Bay Packers’ many offseason projects, one of the most important is getting Eddie Lacy into good shape.
The team’s best running back was overweight last season — two sources with knowledge of the situation told me he spent much of 2015 about 20 pounds over his listed weight of 234. That isn’t the only reason the Packers dropped from first in scoring in the NFL in 2014 to No. 15 last season, but it ranks high on the list.
More important than whether Lacy is doing P90X or some other workout early this offseason is that the Packers make sure he’s doing something constructive to get lighter and back into good playing shape.
In an informal, hour-long interview Thursday at the NFL scouting combine with several beat writers and columnists who cover the Packers, coach Mike McCarthy said his coaching staff will be monitoring Lacy’s conditioning from now until the start of the team’s offseason workout program in April.
“Trust me, it’s been addressed, it’s talked about, researched, the education and all that is there,” McCarthy said. “Eddie will take care of business. I have great confidence that he will. I think we’ll see definitely a different guy in April, and more importantly in July.”
McCarthy also confirmed that Lacy is working with Tony Horton, the creator of the popular P90X program, with the blessing of the team.
“From the program that they’re going through initially, I’m not exactly sure,” McCarthy said. “The second part will take (Lacy) out to California. He’s definitely in a program working out that he hasn’t done in the past.”
Whether Lacy is doing the P90X workout, or something much different, McCarthy didn't say. P90X is a high-intensity program performed six days a week for general conditioning. It involves a variety of fast-paced circuit workouts using dumbbell weights, resistance bands, body-weight exercises, plyometrics, martial arts moves and stretching.
When I recently asked two NFL players agents whether they would send a client with weight issues to Horton, both assumed Lacy’s tie with him would be mainly a marketing deal and that Lacy would be on a football-oriented program with a personal trainer. That might be the case, though as McCarthy said, Lacy’s program this offseason is different than what he has done in the past
The job of monitoring Lacy before he returns to Green Bay for the Packers’ offseason workout program falls to Ben Sirmans, their new running backs coach, and Mark Lovat, the team’s strength and conditioning coach. As former running backs coach Sam Gash found out with his firing after the season, Sirmans' job depends on it.
“We’ve always done that,” McCarthy said of the offseason monitoring. “There’s always, whether it’s the individual coaches or the strength coaches, that’s kind of a normal process. And that will go on in Eddie’s particular situation.”
It still boggles the mind that Lacy got so heavy it hurt his performance and that he couldn’t lose the weight through diet and workouts after his early-season ankle injury healed. McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson over the last 10 years have incrementally added resources to the point where players have everything they could ask for to stay in great shape year-round.
That includes a state-of-the-art workout facility; four strength-and-conditioning coaches; a dining hall where players can get all three meals a day and a team nutritionist, Adam Korzun, who joined the football staff in July 2014.
When asked how Lacy could have allowed himself to get and stay overweight with those resources at hand, McCarthy suggested that Lacy was distracted by off-the-field responsibilities that have increased as he has gotten older. I suspect McCarthy said that because he thinks Lacy is giving a good-faith effort this offseason, and he didn’t want to criticize his player publicly after having done so immediately after the season ended.
The real reason likely is that Lacy simply got lax.
“He’ll be better from it,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also said that a report earlier this offseason that the Packers want Lacy to lose 30 pounds was preposterous.
“The Green Bay Packers have never, ever asked him to lose 30 pounds,” McCarthy said. “That’s totally out of the realm of what we’re talking about. That’s the facts there. He’ll learn from this.”
So will the Packers. They’re looking hard at all the prospects at the scouting combine this week, but a position that’s had to have moved up their priority list is running back.
Lacy’s play his first two seasons in the NFL, 2013 and ’14, provided the Packers a running game that defenses had to honor, which was the best protection they could offer for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. They missed that dimension last season.
And even if the Packers think Lacy will be in much better shape this year, he’s heading into the last season of his contract. They’ll have to make a potentially expensive and risky decision on whether to re-sign him in only one year.
Just as they drafted running back Johnathan Franklin two rounds after Lacy in 2013 as a hedge against Lacy’s injury history in college, so they might want to select a running back this year as a hedge against whether he’s back in 2017.