Rasul Douglas, Allen Lazard and their 'incredible journey' to Packers' stars

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers are here, at 12-3 and in position for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs because of what Aaron Rodgers does throwing the football, what Davante Adams does catching it and how the defense continues to create turnovers at just the right time.

But they wouldn’t be here without guys like Allen Lazard and Rasul Douglas.

There are plenty of others responsible for this, too, but Saturday’s 24-22 win over the Cleveland Browns was as much about the Packers’ everyday grinders as it was about their superstars.

It was Lazard who was on the receiving end of Rodgers’ record-setting 443rd touchdown pass.

It was Douglas who sealed the game with his second interception of the night – and the fourth overall against Baker Mayfield – after the offense took its foot off the gas in the second half.

And think about this: the Packers found both of them on other people’s practice squads.

The Packers grabbed the undrafted Lazard off the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad in 2018 and the journeyman Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad on Oct. 6.

On a night that mostly will be remembered for Rodgers making history, breaking Brett Favre’s franchise record for touchdown passes, those two former cast-offs showed just how important they will be if the Packers are to do what Favre told Rodgers to do in his congratulatory message: “Go get us another Super Bowl.”

“We have guys who play important roles for us,” Rodgers said. “I don’t think Rasul is a role player. He’s a star. He’s got incredible ball skills, he’s around the football all the time and he’s changed our team. He really has.

“Allen is a role player in the most positive, respectful possible way. He does all the dirty work for us around the football in the run game blocking and then I think he’s had some really good games in a row. He’s stacked three good games in a row. He’s played consistent and made a lot of plays. That’s what we expect out of him; that’s what he expects out of himself. I’m really proud of him.”

Lazard, who actually got cut by the Packers following training camp in 2019 only to be promoted from their own practice squad days later, is in the midst of his most productive stretch of the season. With two catches for 45 yards against the Browns – the 11-yard touchdown and a one-handed cradling grab for 34 yards down the sideline – he has 16 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns in the past three games.

“I was just thinking about my journey,” Lazard said. “That this dude’s thrown 443 touchdowns and I think I have maybe 12 or something like that total here in the past three years. Just to be part of his legacy, to be part of his organization, it was a huge moment of gratitude, for me and for everyone else as well.”

For Douglas, this year was his first time on a practice squad. After three years with the Philadelphia Eagles (2017 to 2019) and one with the Carolina Panthers (2020), Douglas was cut this past summer by the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans before he ended up in a humbling position in Arizona. Since his arrival in Green Bay, he saved the Oct. 28 game at Arizona with an end zone interception, has two pick-sixes and three straight games at Lambeau with an interception.

“I don’t think I’m a superstar yet,” Douglas said. “I think we have two superstars on our team: 12 and 17.”

Adams, like Rodgers, clearly disagrees. Adams said it’s safe to say Douglas is “a superstar at the cornerback position.”

Douglas and Lazard have known each other since they faced off in college -- Douglas at West Virginia and Lazard at Iowa State. They’ve kept in touch ever since and now they’re playing key roles on a team that might be the Super Bowl favorite.

“It’s an incredible journey,” Lazard said. “I think that for him to be able to do what he’s doing now, wow. It’s hard for me to describe just because it’s a small, rare opportunity for someone to be able to get that chance, to get that opportunity, to get the minutes that he’s getting given his situation. He’s bounced around on multiple teams and came off a practice squad and now he’s one of our best corners. He has three, four interceptions now?”

A team-high five, actually.

“Yeah, see,” Lazard said. “Since Week 8, right? I told him after the game, ‘Man, what’s known doesn’t need to be said.’ I think we both have a great relationship and we just honor and respect each other so much because he knows the work that I’ve put in and I know the work that he’s put in, as well.”