Lacy passed a test with showing against Vikings
Naturally, the Green Bay Packers needed Eddie Lacy the most when the second-year running back was feeling his worst in Sunday's 24-21 win over the Minnesota Vikings.
That's just the way things work in the NFL sometimes. A two-time Pro Bowler himself, Packers running backs coach Sam Gash believes these are the moments when a player's true colors are defined.
Lacy carried the ball a season-high 25 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Only a handful of teammates knew what he was going through. Most didn't find out until he was too sick to speak in the locker room afterward.
Gash relayed two stories to Lacy during the ordeal. First, the tale of Chicago running back Walter Payton shaking off the flu and a 101-degree temperature to set the NFL's previous single-game rushing record at 275 against Minnesota on Nov. 20, 1977.
The second was Emmitt Smith touching the ball on 42 of Dallas' 70 offensive possessions on Jan. 2, 1994, despite having a separated shoulder. His 229 total yards were the catalyst in the Cowboys' 16-13 overtime win over the New York Giants.
The point being adversity doesn't pick opportune moments to show itself.
"That's just more will than anything. I think as a runner you have to have that if you want to be considered the best," Gash said. "I think anytime obviously anytime you can get through a game where you're not feeling 100 percent, I think you grew as a person."
Lacy wasn't on the injury report this week and appears ready for another heavy workload if called upon during Sunday's game against the New England Patriots.
The Packers swear it wasn't their intent to shave touches off Lacy in September and October to keep him healthy for the final month of the regular season after a sprained ankle slowed him down the stretch last season.
If that's the byproduct, so be it. Regardless, Lacy looks fresh with 43 fewer carries on his ledger entering Week 13 this year than this time last.
"There's definitely a way to look at it," Gash said. "That's something that you know as a player, as a coach, you know December is when teams are made. That's where you're going to find who you are in a sense. The simple fact that he's on our team. He is a talented runner that when you can use him, he's always readily available. It's outstanding."
Lacy handled all but one of the carries out of the backfield against the Vikings after James Starks fumbled on his first carry of the offense's third series. It was his first fumble since Oct. 2, 2013, against Chicago, ending a streak of 107 carries without a mishap.
There was some question whether or not he was down when the ball popped out, but the Packers didn't challenge the ruling since receiver Jordy Nelson recovered it. Starks played only four offensive snaps in the win.
"We don't ever want the ball out. Period," Gash said. "He realizes it. He knows it. We have to go out and keep playing. I'm not worried about James. Not even a little bit. I trust him with the ball without a doubt because he's a pro. It happens. Nobody is perfect. You realize that, but you always expect the best out of him and part of that is 100 percent ball security."