Sailing the Sea of Cheese: With the 61st Pick of the 2013 Draft, the Green Bay Packers Select Eddie Lacy’s Toe!
Many draftniks had originally predicted that he would be gobbled up in the first round. And then he injured his hamstring and did not participate in the Scouting Combine. And yet as the draft began this past week, it wasn’t the hammy that teams were worried about.
Enter Eddie Lacy and his big toe.
I think one would be hard-pressed to find a top-tier running back that doesn’t have some sort of history of significant injury. Even the Badgers’ own Montee Ball has a history of two head injuries with a short period of time–one on the field last season and one just before the season when he was jumped and attacked near campus.
Rewind to earlier in Lacy’s college career and it should be no surprise to anyone that Lacy has a history of a turf toe injury. It is not as though his turf toe and subsequent repair were hidden from anyone. I won’t rehash the nature of a turf toe injury. I wrote about it last fall. But no, it is not a fungal problem. It is actually a ligamental injury where the big toe meets the foot. In mild cases, it’s just a sprain that hurts like the dickens and is treated with the same things one would treat a mild ankle sprain: rest, ice, etc.
In more severe cases (Grade 3), there can be disruption of the joint and the ligament tears. In those cases, surgery is performed to repair the ligament and preserve joint function.
But Eddie Lacy reportedly had his toe fused which makes me wonder if he progressed from Turf Toe to something called Hallux Rigidus. No, it’s not a spell used at Hogwarts. Quite simply, it means Stiff Big Toe where the mobility is already compromised and that joint develops arthritic changes. Just like turf toe, surgery only comes into play with more severe cases.
In severe cases, surgeons may either try to resurface the toe joint or fuse the joint together. From what I’ve read (and I’ll preface this by pointing out the painfully obvious–I never have nor ever will be a foot and ankle specialist) resurfacing only buys an athlete time before the joint is degenerative enough to need fusion.
Yet it is important to keep in mind that the only sources that are going on the record that Lacy, did in fact, have his big toe fused to his foot are coming out of Pittsburgh, which has cited that as the reason they wouldn’t touch Lacy with a ten foot pole. Thus far I have yet to find anything other than that single source, which if you read, is second hand hearsay at best.
So ultimately, no one really knows the status of Eddie Lacy’s foot. Of course it set Packer Nation atwitter last night with speculation complete with the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Even the Journal Sentinel’s Bob McGinn has turned lukewarm toward Lacy before the proverbial ink has dried on his contract.
At this point we don’t really know a lot about Eddie Lacy’s toe other that he had some sort of procedure to rectify his turf toe. But one thing is sure–I’m certain Ted Thompson and the Packers’ medical staff knows the entire history of this Toe of Doom.
But what isn’t disputed is the fact that Eddie Lacy had a pretty decent 2012 season that did take him out of Trent Richardson’s shadow and put him on the map. Keep in mind his final year at Alabama was after his foot surgery. 1322 yards on the ground on 204 attempts. That’s a nothing-to-sneeze at 6.5 yards per carry. Seventeen rushing touchdowns. Oh and he can catch, too. Twenty-two receptions (long for 27 yards), 189 yards in the air and 2 touchdowns that way. And what about that BCS championship game where Alabama absolutely schooled Notre Dame? Did everyone forget Lacy ran for 140 yards and a touchdown? Fused toe or not, there is no question Eddie Lacy played a pivotal role in the Crimson Tide’s championship year.
Somewhere between the BCS Championship and last Thursday, Eddie Lacy’s draft stock slid. Dubious toe, healing hammy and even personal motivation and drive. Each is a different synonym for questionable down the long stretch. I’ve seen each as an excuse why Lacy plummeted, why he is not a long term solution. I won’t go so far to label him an injury magnet or the draft equivalent of herpes that no one wants, but someone inevitably receives. Yes, each team had a chance–and passed–to make him its running back. Yet at the end of the day, Ted Thompson decided to pull the trigger and make Lacy the 61st pick of the draft. There is obviously some intangible that Thompson saw and wants to hone and refine.
Are we as a fanbase so scared–after years of bellyaching that the run has been woefully absent–of embracing a running back that has the potential to be a playmaker that the first reaction to drafting a running specialist is shrink away from the light and scream ZOMG something has to be wrong with him? Yes, durability is a concern. But it is a concern for every running back in the NFL. It’s why they are rarely ever drafted in the top ten any more. Why should Eddie Lacy be any different?
Yes, he very well could be a bust, but on the flip side, it is possible that both he and fellow RB Johnathan Franklin are a sign that the Green Bay Packers finally realize that they need to strengthen their running game if they want to contend for the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
It is no surprise that I have a soft spot for the Alabama Crimson Tide. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s time to stop responding to the rumor mill coming out from another team and trust our own General Manager.
In Ted We Trust.