No matter how he performs next year, Eddie Lacy will likely play only one more year in Green Bay. If he plays poorly, the Packers will not want to have the running back return on a new contract. If he plays up to his fantastic ability, he is going to price himself out of Green Bay. Either way, 2016 will be the last year for Eddie Lacy in the Green and Gold.
It started innocently enough. First, there was the infamous training camp picture, before his rookie year, where Eddie Lacy appeared to have gained a mountain of weight.
Most fans dismissed it as a bad angle. Eddie wasn’t fat, he was just… big boned.
At the beginning of the 2015 season, it became a little more of a concern. Questioned about Lacy’s weight in October, Coach Mike McCarthy said, “I’m not going to get into guys’ weights. But I do think players do get bigger in their career. He’s bigger than he was as a rookie.”
Still, McCarthy was relatively dismissive about concerns that Lacy was too big for his britches. Literally.
Then this week, the other shoe dropped. Singling out Lacy in his end of season press conference, McCarthy said, “He’s got a lot of work to do. I think I’m stating the obvious. His offseason last year was not good enough and he never recovered from it. He has to get it done because he cannot play at the weight that he played at this year.
The fan base, and even Mike McCarthy, have gone from laughing off a discussion of Lacy’s weight to seeing it for the real problem it is. And now, with Lacy on the last year of his rookie contract, it’s step up or get out. But with the money an in-shape Eddie Lacy could command on the open market, no matter what Lacy does, he’s done in Green Bay after this year.
How did it get to this point? It may be lack of motivation on Lacy’s part, or lack of love for the game, but it most certainly is lack of structure.
While attending Alabama, Eddie Lacy participated in Nick Saban’s “Fourth Quarter Program.” He was forced to. As Bryan Powers of Bleacher Report explains, “The moment a freshman recruit walks onto campus in Tuscaloosa, he becomes part of the process. It is every player’s responsibility to prepare himself, both mentally and physically, for any obstacle that might come his way. His militant approach has become a source of pride for Alabama.”
The Fourth Quarter program, a conditioning program that forces players to condition their minds and bodies in preparation to play great football, has no parallel in the NFL. Why? Because the Collective Bargaining Agreement makes it impossible. Coaches couldn’t implement it if they wanted to.
Put simply, the CBA limits the amount of conditioning that coaches can demand so severely that players are on their own to make sure they are in football shape. Gone are the days of Coach Lombardi whipping his players (many of whom held day jobs in the offseason) back into shape.
How restrictive is the CBA? As David Fucillo of Niners Nation writes:
Prior to the OTAs and minicamp, players may be at the facility no more than 4 hours per day, no more than 4 days per week, and not during weekends. They may not spend more than 90 minutes on the field per day. The team can only specify 2 specific hours in a given day during which is “suggests” that the player be at the club facilities. As I read that, they can plan 2 hours of specific times for meetings with position coaches or strength and conditioning coaches, but otherwise, it cannot be “pre-planned” to the hour.
Want to get your out of shape running back into football shape? You better hope he is willing to put the work in on his own. Under the CBA, there simply isn’t enough time to be able to condition players. That’s on them. They are expected to be ready to go when OTAs start. Lacy was not.
Saban can demand everything he wants from his players. He can provide as much structure and conditioning work as he likes (limited somewhat by NCAA rules, but not nearly as limited as NFL coaches are). Without this structure and without being forced to condition, Lacy clearly didn’t live up to his end of the bargain.
So what now? Since Eddie Lacy has undeniable talent, it seems likely that there will be one of two outcomes: 1. Eddie returns in good physical condition and has a year he is capable of or 2. Lacy again reports to camp overweight and out of shape resulting in reduced playing time and little effectiveness.
For the long term, either result is problematic.
If Lacy returns to the form he is capable of, he is likely to put together a huge year. As Jason Wilde predicts:
Mark this Tweet, tell me I’m wrong a year from now, but #Packers RB Eddie Lacy answers McCarthy’s challenge with 1,200-yard season in 2016.
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) January 19, 2016
If that’s the case, Lacy will be a huge performer in a contract year. While the NFL has certainly devalued running backs in recent years, it will be hard for a team to turn down paying Lacy a nice sum of money to run for them. Knowing the Packers propensity to not spend a ton of money on their backfield, this means Lacy most likely will not return as he is gobbled up by another team.
If he returns out of condition and plays poorly, the Packers will have little interest in his returning, even at a bargain basement price.
Either way, it appears this will be Eddie Lacy’s last season in a Packers uniform. Lacy, a once promising addition to the backfield, is now a player on a one year rental deal.
Thank you for reading. Chris Kristofco is a lead writer and lead editor at Titletown Sound Off. You can follow him on Twitter @TTSO_Chris. For even more Packers content, follow us on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.