When it was over – after the glorified practice had ended and before the fireworks had been launched – so much of the Green Bay Packers' annual Family Night Scrimmage felt like carryover from the 2012 season.
There were 16 players sidelined by injuries, and another – tight end Ryan Taylor – who left Lambeau Field in a cart after suffering a knee injury.
Tight end Jermichael Finley dropped the first pass of the first 11-on-11 team period.
Aaron Rodgers and the No. 1 offense marched almost effortlessly down the field for a touchdown in the starting quarterback’s only series.
And kicker Mason Crosby, he of the abominable 2012 season, missed four of the six kicks he attempted during head-to-head competition with challenger Giorgio Tavecchio to close the night.
But one thing was glaringly, jarringly different: The presence of rookie running back Eddie Lacy.
Carrying over from an impressive week of practice in pads, Lacy was exactly what coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson had to be hoping he would be when they picked him in the second round (No. 61 overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft: A bruising, big dude who pushed the pile and made something out of nothing on some of his runs by sheer brute force.
Both McCarthy and Thompson were at field level watching the proceedings, so they’ll review the film on Sunday and have a better feel for what Lacy did then. But on Saturday night, the early returns were positive.
“I thought Eddie ran the ball well,” said McCarthy, before praising the other backs, too. “I think Eddie’s definitely picked it up here over the last 3-4 days. This is our longest stretch of practices in a row and it’s important for guys to take that step, and he’s definitely getting more and more comfortable with the things we’re doing. He’s had a productive few days.”
Lacy looked good during a red-zone drill on Tuesday, then scored three touchdowns in short-yardage situations in the admittedly offensively-tilted goal-line session on Wednesday. On Saturday night, James Starks earned the starting nod, but Lacy came in once the offense reached the red zone and he gained 3 yards on his first carry during Rodgers’ series. Lacy then had back-to-back 7- and 16-yard runs on the No. 1 offense’s next series, which ended in James Nixon intercepting a B.J. Coleman pass and returning it 66 yards for a touchdown. When the offense got another chance, he broke off a 19-yard run and followed it with an 11-yarder before Coleman threw another pick, this time to Brandon Smith.
“He’s got a chance to be a good player. I think you’ve seen the last three or four days, watching practice, some flashes from him,” Rodgers said. “Again, I will temper it and say this is Family Night. There’s a lot of opportunities coming up for everyone in the backfield there, but you definitely see the ability of the guy they drafted (in the) second round and I think he’s really starting to come along.”
But it was also on his less explosive runs when the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Lacy impressed. On a first-and-10 play from the defense’s 49-yard line on the play after his 19-yard run, Lacy gained 4 yards when it appeared there was nothing to be gained.
“As long as it’s moving forward, whether it’s 2 yards or 12 yards, I’m pretty much cool with that,” Lacy said.
Unofficially, Lacy ran eight times for 62 yards. To win the starting job, he will have to outperform returnees James Starks (who is off to an equally strong start in camp), Alex Green and still-sidelined DuJuan Harris, and fellow rookies Johnathan Franklin and Angelo Pease. With the preseason opener against Arizona six days away, he’ll have another chance to impress then.
“I feel as though I’ve been building each day. The vets, they’re still coaching me, they’re pushing me, making sure that I’m comfortable with what I’ve got going on,” Lacy said. “Just being able to take hits gets you ready for the games that we have coming up. It’s fun. It’s not just practicing with helmets on where you have to thud up. You get to full-go.”
Lacy again said he wasn’t bothered by the ridicule he endured on Twitter during the week after an unflattering photo of him from Packers.com went viral on social media. He also acknowledged, however, that he will be in better shape as camp goes along.
“I’m getting there,” Lacy replied when asked if he still had weight to lose. “The more we play, the more in shape I’ll become. It’s just one step at a time and doing one thing at a time.”
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today” on 540 ESPN, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.