Eddie Lacy’s interview begins at approximately the 25-minute mark.
Say this for Green Bay Packers rookie Eddie Lacy, he’s brimming with optimism.
When asked Thursday if he could eclipse 1,000 rushing yards in first season in the NFL, the former Alabama running back responded, “I really think I can.”
Lacy wasn’t about to let his mouth write a check his legs can’t cash, however. He hedged by adding, “We’ll see how it all plays out.”
Before becoming the first Packers running back to run for 1,000 or more yards in a single season since Ryan Grant in 2009, the Packers would probably be ecstatic if they could first get him to gain 100 yards in a game. That hasn’t happened in a span of 43 games in Green Bay since Brandon Jackson gained 115 yards against the Washington Redskins on Oct. 10, 2010.
Even though the Packers made Lacy their second round draft choice with the 61st overall selection in April’s NFL Draft, he’ll have plenty of competition to carry the football this upcoming season.
In the fourth round of the draft, the Packers traded up to pick Johnathan Franklin of UCLA as somewhat of an insurance policy. Given the concern surrounding Lacy’s toe fusion surgery and long-term health prognosis, Franklin will be there to complement Lacy or be used as sort of a one-two punch in Green Bay.
As for how they’ll divvy up carries or whether the team uses them in the backfield at the same time, Lacy will leave that up to the coaching staff.
“I honestly have no idea,” said Lacy. “I don’t know what they’re going to do as far as me and him being at running back and if they’re going to put us in at the same time. If they do, that would be cool, but I really don’t know what they plan on doing.”
Lacy’s comments on Thursday came during an online event called a “digital card signing” via the social media platform of a Google+ Hangout. He’s in Pasadena, Cal. over the weekend for the NFL Rookie Premiere, an annual event sponsored by the NFL Players Association along with Topps and Panini. It’s an opportunity for the trading card companies to obtain photography and autographs of this year’s NFL rookie class.
Lacy and Franklin were the only Packers invited to this year’s event, so in just the short amount of time since they’ve been drafted by the Packers, they’ve already begun to spend a lot of time together. The two were roommates during last weekend’s rookie orientation camp in Green Bay as well.
“We’re extremely cool,” said Lacy. “It’s like we’ve known each other for like five years already. We both have a sense of humor, we joke around and we play. Getting to meet him is not as weird as some may think because we both got drafted. He’s an extremely cool guy.”
No matter who’s carrying the football for the Packers in 2013, there’s plenty room for growth in the Green Bay ground game. Last season they ranked 20th in the NFL with 1,702 yards, an average of 3.9 yards per carry. In fact, the Packers’ leading rusher last year was Alex Green with just 464 yards.
Lacy himself ran for 1,322 yards as a junior at Alabama last season alone to go along with 17 touchdowns and a per carry average of 6.5 yards.
Even with a bigger emphasis on the rushing attack in Green Bay, however, the offense will still revolve around quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a fact not lost on Lacy.
By recently signing Rodgers to a five-year, $110 million contract extension and making him the highest-paid player in the NFL, it’s of the utmost importance for Lacy to also be able to provide pass protection for Rodgers.
“That’s pretty much the No. 1 rule there, protect the quarterback, protect Aaron,” said Lacy. “That’s with any team you go to. The quarterback is the guy that runs the whole operation and you have to protect him. But protecting Aaron is pretty much the No. 1 priority.”
Lacy said he’s No. 4 in the running back rotation as things currently stand in Green Bay, presumably behind veterans Green, James Starks and DuJuan Harris, but it shouldn’t take him long to make a climb up the depth chart.
The Packers didn’t make an second round investment into Lacy for nothing. And it shouldn’t be long before the Packers find out if he’s capable of being the type of ball carrier that’s able to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.
Brian Carriveau is the author of “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.