Here’s the gist of the Eddie Lacy watch Tuesday:
At the Green Bay Packers’ first offseason practice open to reporters for 2016, Lacy looked slimmer than last season but not as thin as in two photos posted online in March: one with P90X founder Tony Horton and another that a Green Bay Packers fan sent to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
If I were the Packers, I’d be a little disappointed. I’d have hoped that his conditioning debacle last season would have spurred him into training-camp shape by this point in the offseason.
He’s in better form than last season, when his weight was in the low 250s and his torso bulkier, but I’d have wanted to see him already at his fighting weight, which is the lower 230s.
I don’t know if Lacy added a few pounds since March, when he was in the midst of a two-month stint working out with Horton, or if the pictures were a little deceiving. Horton says he never weighed Lacy but estimates the running back lost 15 to 20 pounds in their time together. That probably would have had Lacy close to his 234-pound listed playing weight.
If I had to guess, I’d peg him at 240 or a tad more at practice Tuesday.
Coach Mike McCarthy, who after last season called out Lacy for his lax conditioning, more or less told it like it was Tuesday. He didn’t offer an exaggerated defense, which coaches often do reflexively for their players. McCarthy’s lukewarm take suggested to me that he could live with where Lacy is now but was expecting a little better, perhaps based on those March photos.
“Eddie’s like a lot of our team right now,” McCarthy said when asked of Lacy’s conditioning. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
He later said: “Eddie will be fine. I believe he’ll hit the target that we’re all looking for when the lights come on.”
After practice, Lacy conducted a media session in the locker room, where almost all of the questions were about his weight, conditioning and offseason work with Horton. And rightly so. It’s one of the most important issues of the Packers’ offseason. I can guarantee you it’s no small matter to McCarthy, the coaching staff, and everyone else in the organization who’s depending on Lacy to return to form.
Remember, this is the same player who as a rookie in 2013 played a key role in keeping the Packers’ offense functioning well enough to go 2-2-1 in games Matt Flynn finished at quarterback in place of injured Aaron Rodgers. When Lacy is fit, he can be a difference maker.
"He understands his importance within this offense in terms of being able to play at a high level,” said Ben Sirmans, the Packers’ new running backs coach who owes his position primarily to Lacy’s weight issues, which cost predecessor Sam Gash his job.
In his 6 ½-minute, weight-talk session with reporters, Lacy was more forthright than when the topic came up last year.
"You get a wake-up call,” he said, “(last season) was my wake-up call. Better sooner than later.”
Lacy needs to fully heed the call in his diet and workouts, and because of his position it really needs to be sooner. Running backs have short shelf lives – most are old by age 28 – so he doesn’t have the luxury of, say, teammate Josh Sitton, who’s a guard.
This offseason, with his 30th birthday approaching in June, Sitton dropped 20 to 25 pounds in the offseason to ease the strain on his chronically sore back and the rest of his joints. It’s the lightest he has been since 2011. He said he did it mainly with a healthier diet.
Sitton plans to add back 10 to 15 pounds by the start of the season, which will leave his playing weight between 315 and 320.
"It’s easier to play at 325, 330 when you’re 22, 23 years old,” Sitton said. “It’s a little bit harder when you’re coming on 30. It kind of just helps with everything. I usually lose a few pounds during the offseason every year. This year, I just did a little bit more.”
Lacy found out the limitations of playing too heavy last year, only at 25, not 30. He’s a naturally big man who puts on weight easily, even though he’s a young man.
“My first two years I pretty much did whatever I wanted,” he said. “Last year same thing, just different results. It’s something I crossed, I’m glad earlier than later. You learn it and keep going.”
The Packers have two more weeks of OTA sessions after this week, then their mandatory minicamp in mid-June. Lacy presumably will come out those in at least the shape he’s in now, if not a little better. The big test will come at the start of training camp.
McCarthy said the Packers have a body-composition standard for Lacy – presumably a percentage of body fat – not a weight. I suspect they have targets for both.
The question is, will he show up for training camp in the same condition he finishes the offseason work in three weeks? A little better? A little worse?
“From what they tell me where he was at this point last year, he’s definitely a smaller man than what he was at this point last year,” Sirmans said. “It leads me to believe that by the time we get to training camp, from a fitness standpoint he’ll be where we want him to be.”