INDIANAPOLIS -- Mike McCarthy has seen Eddie Lacy's power running style for four years. And he watched Ty Montgomery flourish as a shifty, explosive ball carrier after he converted from receiver midway through last season.
Now, the Green Bay Packers coach would like to see that together as a one-two punch.
For that to happen, they will have to re-sign Lacy, of course. Lacy, who would become a free agent next week, said recently that the Packers have been “very vocal about having me back,” something McCarthy echoed on Wednesday at the NFL combine.
“We’d like to get Eddie back,” McCarthy said. “He’s our guy. He’s one of our core players. All of these guys are in free agency right now -- all nine of them -- this a business phase that we go through each and every year. I’m hopeful we can get them all back, but the reality of it doesn’t always work out that way.”
It was Lacy’s season-ending ankle injury in Week 6 last season that necessitated Montgomery’s full-time switch to running back. In the first five games of the season, Montgomery carried five times total. In the next 13 (he missed one because of an illness), he carried 97 times including the three playoff games.
Here’s how McCarthy described his level of interest in seeing the two of them available for shared duty: “Very high.”
McCarthy said he “visited with Lacy” about a week ago and was encouraged by the rehab work Lacy has done at the University of Alabama since the season ended in late January.
Lacy was off to a strong start last season before he shredded his left ankle and needed surgery to insert two screws, two wires and a plate. He averaged 5.1 yards per carry. Granted it was a small sample size (71 carries), but his previous averages were 4.1 in 2013, 4.6 in 2014 and 4.1 in 2015.
Montgomery, in 77 regular-season carries, bettered Lacy’s mark with a 5.9-yard average. This offseason will be Montgomery’s first as a full-time running back; he only briefly worked with the backs last summer in training camp.
“I think it’s important to recognize you always want some diversity between the running styles of your running backs and especially when they can both play all three downs,” McCarthy said. “That’s the most important component that I look for in running backs. They’re all different. It’s our job as coaches to take advantage of their skill set. But the fact that those can play all three downs and give you a different style runner is a huge benefit to our offense.”
At this point, Montgomery is the only halfback who was under contract with the Packers last season. They released veteran James Starks last month. McCarthy announced shortly after the season that Montgomery would remain as a running back on a full-time basis.
“We knew that he had some pedigree as a running back,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “His body type is certainly something that would make you think about it. When coaches or personnel people are sitting around, chewing the fat, we think about things like that, and he’s one of those people that certainly seems to have found a little niche. And he’s embraced it. That’s one thing that sometimes is overlooked. He took the bull by the horns and embraced it.”