Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy possesses a super power and it has nothing to do with his patented spin move or running over unlucky defenders.
Lacy has the ability to erase your memory. He made you forget about his dreadful rookie debut last season.
It's almost hard to believe after a season in which he was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year, but there was a time last season when Eddie Lacy struggled.
"In the beginning, I would definitely second guess myself a lot," said Lacy at last week's minicamp. "I wanted to be as close to perfect as possible. I didn't want to mess up. I didn't want to fumble the ball like I did in the first game."
Lacy might have scored a touchdown in his first ever NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 of the 2013 season, but it was an otherwise uninspired performance.
In that matchup against the defending NFC champions, Lacy had 14 rushes for a pedestrian 41 yards, a measley 2.9 yards per carry.
The Packers lost that game to the 49ers, 34-28, and it was Lacy's fumble that was particularly costly. With the game tied 7-7 and the Packers backed up to their own 10-yard line in the second quarter, 49ers linebacker Navorro Bowman jarred the ball loose from Lacy. The Niners recovered and scored five plays later to take a seven-point lead.
Really, the first three games of Lacy's career were rather forgettable. In Week 2 against Washington, he carried the football just one time before suffering a concussion and missing the rest of the game and the following week against Cincinnati altogether.
Thankfully, the Packers had a bye Week 4, an opportunity for Lacy recover from injury and put those first three weeks behind him.
"As the season went along, things slowed down for me and got a little bit simpler and I was able to play to my natural ability at that point to be a rookie," said Lacy.
The Alabama product appeared rejuvenated after the bye. From Week 5 onward, Lacy rushed for 1,121 of his 1,178 yards, caught 34 of his 35 passes and didn't fumble the rest of the way. Lacy finally started to look like the player in which the Packers invested a second round draft choice.
Following his award-winning rookie campaign, Lacy is now a household name. Expectations are that he rushes for more than 1,000 yards on an annual basis and is a perennial Pro Bowler.
As Lacy took part in his second minicamp last week, he felt more equipped to live up those lofty expectations.
"I feel a lot better," said Lacy. "I'm moving faster; I'm playing faster because I can comprehend what's going on faster. I don't have to second guess myself.
"I don't have to look at the quarterback and ask him if I'm doing the right thing or look at coach and pretty much just slow myself down. Now that I have a year under my belt I can process everything a lot faster and play the way I know how to play."
To keep Lacy effective in 2014 and beyond, part of the burden falls on the Packers organization. From all indications, the coaches have done their part in the teaching department. The next part is keeping him healthy and not wearing down.
After all, as a 230-pound bowling ball, Lacy is exposed to his fair share of hits.
"I like to think Eddie puts the beating on. I think he's beating people up the way he runs," said head coach Mike McCarthy during the team's offseason program. "But I think you have to be conscientious of everything that goes on with your football team. The mileage any player is putting on their body and really what's going on with not only the snaps he's playing but the wear and tear.
"So yeah, we're conscious of all that. We regulate everything: the snaps every player plays on offense, defense and special teams."
One way in which the Packers plan to limit Lacy's snap count is to spell him with backup James Starks.
In the offseason the Packers signed Starks to a two-year, $3.25 million contract, a deal that took on added significance in light of the recent release of Johnathan Franklin following a neck injury last season.
As good as Lacy was last season, Starks was nearly as effective, albeit in fewer opportunities. His 5.5 yards per carry was the highest in the NFL for any player with more than 50 rushes.
With Plan B in place, Lacy can just be Lacy. He's more comfortable in the team's offense entering Year 2 and with Starks behind him, he doesn't have the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"I'm definitely more focused, but I'm also more relaxed," said Lacy. "I'm not tensed. I'm not trying to be too fast or too slow. If I make a mistake, I'm not killing myself over it."
The release of Franklin also seems to have had an influence on Lacy.
Lacy might be able to absorb hits and play through pain like he did late last season, fighting through an ankle injury. But after seeing up close what happened to Franklin, Lacy isn't taking his career for granted.
Asked how he stays hungry following the success of 2013, Lacy said, "Just not wanting to let my teammates down. And this is game that you never know when it's going to be taken away from you, so just being able to be that guy that my team can depend on when necessary."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "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 protected].
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