ESPN is reporting that Seattle Seahawks’ newly acquired running back, Eddie Lacy, has a provision in his contract where he can receive additional compensation for being in shape and doing his job. Admittedly, that’s not exactly how the report was worded, but that’s essentially what’s going on here. Lacy has a $385,000 bonus linked to maintaining an agreed upon playing weight over the course of the season. A professional athlete gets paid extra for staying in shape? Seriously?
Eddie Lacy’s Declining Performance
Lacy, who excelled at the University of Alabama behind an offensive line that could’ve made Tony Reali, the thin and slight host of ESPN’s Around the Horn, look like a Heisman finalist, has in his NFL career (how do we put this delicately?) had some issues with his playing weight. In his rookie season with the Green Bay Packers, Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards on 284 carries with 11 TD and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl. He followed that up in 2014 with 246 carries for 1,139 yards and 9 TD. But in 2015, Lacy’s conditioning would take its toll on his on-field performance.
A series of nagging injuries, which Packers’ head coach Mike McCarthy publicly attributed to the inflated weight of his star running back, slowed Lacy to 12 games played, 187 carries, 758 yards, and just 3 TD. The drop-in performance prompted McCarthy to call out the twenty-four-year-old and insist that he report to camp in better shape for the ’06 campaign.
And he did. Only somehow, while practicing to play professional football, sometimes twice a day, and playing professional football once a week, Lacy managed to re-gain all the lost weight, seemingly right before the television viewers’ eyes. It was a weekly event to see how much more weight Lacy had put on from the previous game. It maybe wasn’t as dramatic as watching Boston Red Sox slugger Pablo Sandoval explode out of his belt and pants mid-swing, but it was an issue sure to garner comments from color analysts like FOX’s own Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman, a time or two. Then, in week six, Lacy injured his ankle and his season was over.
It’s Your Job, Eddie
Now, before I get accused of fat shaming, let me clarify a few points. Eddie Lacy is a professional athlete. He gets paid millions of dollars because of his athletic prowess. At any given moment during an NFL season, there are roughly 100 people on the planet who are employed to play running back and only a handful of them can be considered elite. In 2013 and 2014, Lacy was one of those handful of elite backs.
When not on the field playing football, Lacy, and other athletes like him, have one job and one job only – stay in shape. Watching what they eat and working out are the ways they accomplish that. Given the singularity of that purpose, is it really necessary for the team to monetarily incentivize the player to do his job in the offseason (and in-season) when he’s already getting paid more than the vast majority of the fans to play a game?
Seahawks’ head coach Pete Carroll told ESPN’s John Clayton that he wanted Lacy “big and tough and strong,” which seemed to indicate a playing weight for Lacy in the 240’s. But, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Tuesday that Lacy weighed 267 at recent free agent meetings. The excuse? He’s still recovering from the ankle injury that sidelined him in week six of last season. So, I guess you can’t swim or bike or eat sensibly with an injured ankle?
The good news for Seahawks’ fans is that Lacy’s lack of conditioning in the past has “only” manifested itself in games missed, but not performance on the field. He seems very capable of churning out the yards, even at the heavier weight. In the five games played in 2016 – starting in shape in camp and then ballooning before our very eyes – Lacy averaged 5.1 Y/A, the highest of his career, albeit on just 71 rushes.
Given the presence of Thomas Rawls, Alex Collins, and CJ Prosise on the depth chart, Lacy may not have to accommodate a full-time, premiere back, workload and could be quite effective. And Carroll does have the reputation for motivating players in ways they haven’t been motivated in the past. And, there’s always $385,000 to eat right and exercise.