The Green Bay Packers have gone to great lengths to keep almost all details about Eddie Lacy’s season-ending injury and surgery from becoming known to the public? The question is: why?
We know Lacy suffered an ankle or foot injury against the Giants on October 9. After the game, his status was said to be “unclear.” Just a couple days before the next game versus Dallas, coach Mike McCarthy said “He’s going to have to have a wonderful, great 24 hours to play in the game.”
Apparently those 24 hours were indeed wonderful, because Lacy carried the ball 17 times for 65 yards in the loss to the Cowboys on October 16.
Two days after the game with Dallas, the report was that “Lacy is expected to miss a few weeks – and perhaps longer.” Two days after that, on October 20, we learned that Lacy went for a second opinion earlier in the week. That same day, the Packers placed Lacy on injured reserve for an ankle injury that “will require surgery.”
Several news outlets, both local and national, immediately speculated that Lacy’s career with the Packers was likely over.
We next learned that Lacy saw Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot specialist, in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s the same doctor Ty Montgomery, Lacy’s replacement, went to in 2015 for his own second opinion.
If the nature of Lacy’s injury was kept secret, his rehab has been even more of a mystery. Despite lots of searching, I can’t tell you when he had surgery, where, who performed it, what it consisted of, whether it was considered a success, how long rehab was expected to be, what the medical prognosis was, or what the current update or status is.
On October 20, an ESPN reporter noted that the earliest return date was week 15, but that was just based on the earliest time Lacy was permitted to come off IR.
On November 16, Lacy posted on his website: “I am hoping I can come back late in the season, but we’ll see how my rehab goes.”
Then, on November 23, Big Mike told reporters that Lacy would not be returning from IR this season. This was hardly a revelation because Makinton Dorleant was just named as the team’s IR player designated to return, which meant that both Lacy and cornerback Sam Shields were prohibited by league rules from returning for the remainder of the season.
We know next to nothing about Lacy’s rehabilitation program. Did you see him on the sidelines during Packers’ home games? Did he travel with the team to away games? Was he back in Louisiana or did he remain with the team?
Here’s all I can find. As of early December, Lacy was still in a walking boot and using a scooter to get around. Then Lacy surfaced on December 13, during a promotional appearance for Campbell’s Chunky Soup. He even spoke: “I would love to be [back with the Packers]… I’ll just sit back, talk to my agent and we’ll see where it goes.”
At McCarthy’s season-ending news conference on January 26, the coach was still not sharing any info: “Eddie Lacy. I’d love to see back. Eddie’s going through a medical situation.”
Dare We Speculate?
The mystery surrounding Lacy’s 2016 season is highly unusual. In most cases, the team physician acts as a medical spokesman – even if another physician does the surgery – and describes the extent of the surgery, the rehabilitation plan and timeframe, and the prospects for success and a full recovery and return to previous level of ability. Why didn’t we hear from Dr. Patrick McKenzie?
It’s not wild speculation to connect the dots concerning what we do know. It is reasonable to surmise that Eddie Lacy is not happy with being cleared by the team’s medical staff to play the entire Cowboys’ game. The fact he resorted to a second opinion right after that game suggests that he was upset about having injuries become more severe due to playing injured, rather than allowing injuries to properly heal. The Packers were arguably guilty of doing this many times over the past two seasons.
It also fits the scenario that the Packers don’t want to discuss any details and especially what was found in the course of the surgery, due to potential legal liability. If Lacy’s career and future earnings might have been drastically affected by dubious medical diagnosis and advice by the team, this would explain why the Packers don’t want to make any statements that might later be used against them in court.
In any event, few are predicting that Eddie Lacy will be on the Packers’ 2017 roster. If that’s the case, the Packers will have largely squandered their second-round draft pick of 2013. They’ll have parted ways with a player who was just entering his prime years – and whose bruising running style had transformed the entire image of the team.
The Packers appear to be about to lose a guy who as a rookie was named AP-Second Team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl. Lacy was also selected as the Offensive Rookie of the Year – the first time that’s happened to a Packer since John Brockington in 1971.
If… if the reason Lacy required surgery was due to the team unwisely or negligently clearing him to play with a bad ankle injury, how did that affect the 2016 season? Had he been allowed to rest and recover for four weeks, he’d have missed games against the Cowboys, Bears, and Falcons, but he might have been ready for games against the Colts, Titans and Redskins. Had those three losses, all to mediocre teams, instead been two or three wins, the Packers would have finished the regular season with a 13-3 or 12-4 record.
The Falcons finished the regular season at 11-5. Might the NFC conference championship have been played at Lambeau Field – and with a healthy Eddie Lacy running wild over the tundra? Might the Packers have had a healthy Ty Montgomery at receiver, instead of injured players (Nelson, Adams, Allison) again spending so much time on the field? The loss of Lacy set a lot of wheels in motion.
Does all this explain why the Packers have been mum about providing any detailed medical information about Lacy’s ankle injury, surgery, or recuperation? The media, local and national, sure dropped the ball on this one.