Green Bay — The first time Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy stepped inside the Superdome was his sophomore year at Alabama.
So what, you say?
Well, Lacy spent his first 14 years in New Orleans, before Hurricane Katrina forced him and his family to evacuate, and you would have thought he might have seen a Saints game or two.
No, Lacy wasn't a football fan, at least when it came to the NFL.
"I don't think I even had sports shirts," Lacy said. "I was outside playing, not inside watching it."
That initial appearance, in front of family, friends, maybe old neighbors, wasn't exactly a celebrated homecoming. Emotionally wrung out from evacuating New Orleans, then resettling in Geismar, La., a town closer to Baton Rouge than New Orleans, Lacy shocked locals by choosing the Crimson Tide over LSU.
During his sophomore year, Lacy made his return to New Orleans. Alabama beat LSU for the national championship. He didn't exactly get a standing ovation.
"They knew I was from Louisiana, and I was at a traitor school as people would say," Lacy said. "So, I got boos for that and a bunch of negative comments. But that's just a part of the game. Fans are going to say what fans say. At the end of the day, what I have to do takes place on the football field."
Lacy returns to the Superdome on Sunday night as the Packers' featured running back — he was a backup behind Trent Richardson the last time — and while he talked about just doing his job against the New Orleans Saints, it wasn't hard to interpret his feelings about coming home.
He wants to win, first and foremost. But...
"I'd like to have one of the biggest games of my life," Lacy said.
There's a chance coach Mike McCarthy might let him do that.
Against blitz-happy Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, the Packers are going to have to either strike for big plays under duress or make Ryan put his blitz package back in the cupboard with a big helping of Lacy yardage.
The best way to quiet down a frantic crowd cheering on a desperate Saints team (2-4) and prevent momentum shifts that threaten to run you over is to run it down the defense's throat.
"As you put your plan together, the play style of (your) football team, obviously where you're playing is a factor here," McCarthy said. "It's on turf. I mean this is going to be a fast environment."
Lacy has not had a game where he has been the focus. His highest number of carries this season was 17 against Chicago and in the three games since then he's carried 13, 14 and 12 times. He had his biggest day when he was the least needed, against Minnesota, when he rushed 13 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-10 victory.
Against Carolina, he and James Starks shared the load. Lacy had 12 carries for 53 yards and a touchdown, and Starks had seven carries for 36 yards and a touchdown. That's not a bad day on the ground, but it might need to be better against the Saints.
After seven games last season, Lacy had 134 carries and that includes one game in which he was knocked out after one carry. Through seven games this season he has 92 carries.
The fewer carries probably has a lot to do with some of the inconsistency of the running game. After hovering around 3.0, Lacy's per carry average has climbed back to 4.0, but it's still down from the 4.45 he was averaging at this time last season.
Lacy would like to have a breakout game, but the team is 5-2 and playing pretty well on offense.
"As a football player, you want to score, you want to get 100 yards, you want to do everything that makes you look good," he said. "I just want to be able to continue to contribute, that's pass blocking, getting out on the check-down, the whole nine yards.
"I might not have 100 yards; I might not even get 60, but the yards that I do have definitely will contribute and make sure we're in a great position to win the game, which is the ultimate goal."
And regardless of the number of yards he gains Sunday, he doesn't have to think about coming back to that trailer his family has been staying in since returning to Louisiana. Construction on a new house was finished this summer and Lacy has a real home to go to.
He'll just have to wait until Tuesday, when the players take off for the bye week, to really enjoy it.
"It's a great feeling, especially for me coming home," he said. "I don't have to worry about coming home staying in the trailer and sleeping on the sofa no more. I get to go home to a house, air-conditioned, everything's working, sofa, my own bed, just a homey feeling now."
By Tom Silverstein | jsonline.con | October 22, 2014