GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Do not expect precaution to infiltrate Eddie Lacy's game. It really doesn't matter how many times the Green Bay Packers running back carries the ball.
"Every opportunity means a lot and I'll run the ball as if it's my last play," Lacy said. "Whether it's 300 or 250, whatever the number is, I'm going to give every carry everything I have."
No, there won't be much tap-dancing out of bounds in 2014.
A season ago, the fourth back drafted rammed his way to 1,259 yards and 11 touchdowns on 305 carries overall. An Eddie Lacy carry is different from a Giovani Bernard carry, too. Lacy, listed at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, creates a pile of punishment for all involved.
This off-season served as the tune-up. Next month, his encore begins.
Lacy says staying hungry won't be a problem.
"This is a game where you never know when it's going to be taken away from you, so just being that guy my team can depend on when necessary. That's the main drive for me," Lacy said after the Packers' final minicamp practice. "And just cherishing every moment I get to play the game that I love."
After the Packers' 23-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFC wild-card game, Lacy slipped into hibernation.
The guy who came into the NFL with a fused toe, a metal plate and seven screws in his left hand and a slight tear in his hamstring -- among other dings -- was stinging from a rookie season jam-packed with contact. In December, Lacy suffered a sprained ankle three times in three weeks.
No wonder coach Mike McCarthy, in Lacy's words, said to "relax" for a while.
"It took my body a long time just to stop hurting," Lacy said. "So once that happened, I got a couple massages, just make sure your body's right. We have a workout manual that they give us, so I did a little bit of that. But it definitely took me a long time for my body to stop hurting."
He's not sure of the exact time, but this recovery period lasted longer than anything Lacy experienced at Alabama.
During organized team activities and minicamp, Lacy ran with more pep in his step and spent long stretches on the sideline talking to new running backs coach Sam Gash.
Overall, Lacy is a more relaxed player these days. Precisely one year ago, he didn't know his assignment before some plays. Second-guessing himself, Lacy was consumed by trying to be too perfect.
His position coach then, Alex Van Pelt, later said Lacy needed to learn how to practice like a pro. Past coaches even told Van Pelt he wouldn't like "a lot of the stuff that happens on the practice field" with Lacy.
So Green Bay stayed on the rookie, and Lacy's effort picked up.
To Lacy, practicing like a pro is more about knowing his job.
"I'm definitely more focused but I'm also more relaxed," Lacy said. "I'm not tensed. I'm not trying to be too fast or too slow. Or if I make a mistake, I'm not killing myself over it. To me, that statement meant that if you know what you have to do then go out and do it. You don't have to do no more, no less. You don't have to go out and pretend like you're the best person on the field.
"We're all human, we're all going to make a mistake. But it's how you respond to that mistake."
At some point last season, it clicked. Lacy became a rarity, an every-down running back. When bad turned to worse -- the Packers cycling through four starting quarterbacks --Lacy was the constant.
One of those quarterbacks, Scott Tolzien, sees a more comfortable, confident player.
"A lot of guys in their second year, things kind of slow down for you a little bit." Tolzien said "And I'm really looking forward to, as all of us are, to seeing what he does in Year 2 just because there's that first year growing pains. He's jumped out of those shoes."
This day, Tolzien notes that you can hear the typically quiet Lacy across the locker room.
"What I was impressed with last year was on game day, on Sundays, there's no one you want back there more than Eddie," Tolzien said. "He truly sets the tone for everybody with his physicality."
This coming month is another mini break for Lacy. He plans on spending time with his parents in Louisiana; he's a home body.
Time away now is essential. Lacy knows July is the calm before another storm.
"When it comes a little closer to reporting," Lacy said, "that's when you start narrowing what you have to do and get in your mind, it's game time now. It's going to be a long season."
Dave Kallmann 5/8 Motorsports Writer / Sports Designer
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
e. HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org"email@example.com
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/NdW5WUY7Xahs34OXRi8cQdwfpJEOEz6zZ6CDgj9KiQac2DCRojMHXgTbpyfXOXJqD3OB4QFu7e5-nV28Dx66pgQl9XpNXeCQEP -- USxHdrare6ZM -- R68
(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services