Green Bay receiver finding his voice, on and off the field, this year Wes Hodkiewicz
GREEN BAY - A year ago, there's no way Allen Lazard could have brought himself to do it.
Even now, it isn't exactly comfortable for the Packers' second-year receiver to speak up in a meeting room with a future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback and 13 other offensive players with more accrued seasons on their NFL resume.
However, Lazard saw something on film recently regarding the skill-position players' blocking that wasn't quite right. As someone who considers himself "the best blocking wideout in the league," Lazard felt compelled to use his voice.
"It just seemed like a necessity," Lazard said. "I think it was something that we needed to address as an offense, especially as a wide receiver group.
"It was more so just making sure we're all working together and have the same technique in mind so we're able to capitalize on those RPOs (run-pass options) that we run."
That's the difference in Allen Lazard, Year 2. As a first-year player in 2019, the 6-foot-5, 227-pound receiver went from the practice squad to the Packers' No. 2 receiver over the course of three months. He kept his head down, worked to gain Aaron Rodgers' trust and prove he belonged at this level.
In 2020, Lazard has tried to step more out of his comfort zone and show who is, as a player and as a person. He's grown out his hair, adding a shock of blond hair near his hairline.
Lazard does a "Juice of the day" video on his Instagram page. It's meant to promote wellness but also overtly points to Lazard's desire to maintain his energy level and drive.
"I think this year I've kind of grown into who I am and my identity and everything," Lazard said. "Last year was a big year just getting experience, really playing for the first time. It was a lot different than being on the practice squad and my role changed a lot throughout last year, and this year, as well, too. I feel like the past two years, I've just been growing every single day, personally, on and off the field."
That's where the "crown" comes into play. While out of action earlier this season following core-muscle surgery, Lazard was following along with some of the national storylines about the game's best receivers. Davante Adams wasn't mentioned.
What started with the "Top two, not two" social media campaign among Adams' teammates led to Lazard busting out a new touchdown celebration after he returned from injured reserve - symbolically crowning Adams after a TD. It's since spread to the rest of the Packers' skill-position players.
"I've told him many times he's one of my favorite teammates that I've had since I've been here, and that says a lot because there's been a lot of great players and great men," Adams said.
"Everything about him since he's been here has been positive and it's been great for us as a team. I often remind him to remain who you are and keep doing the little things you do to help this football team win, and we're going to end up where we want to be."
Lazard isn't just a hype man. He's very much been a part of the Packers' success this year. His injury, which came at the tail end of a 146-yard performance against New Orleans in Week 3, left an irreplaceable void in the offense for the next six games.
The structure of Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense is night-and-day compared to the system Lazard played in under Matt Campbell during his final year at Iowa State, but he's still thrived in both.
The 25-year-old receiver's role in Green Bay's offense is multifaceted. He caught a definitive 58-yard TD in the Packers' playoff win over the Los Angeles Rams, but Lazard also can be utilized as an H-back lending a hand in the run game.
To his credit, he embraces all of it.
"Allen's an undrafted guy who had to work his tail off to even just get a shot to get someone to look his way," said tight end Robert Tonyan, another former undrafted free agent who's since developed into a key contributor in the Packers' offense.
"Allen's always been a big personality, a great vibe on the team, a great teammate. He wants others to succeed as much as he wants to succeed. So it's nothing new for guys in the building for the past couple of years that we've known Allen. It's him getting his chance to go out there and make plays and be that personality."
This weekend, Green Bay hosts Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship. For Lazard, it'll be his first shot at the Buccaneers after having to sit out of the Packers' 38-10 loss in Tampa back in Week 6.
Emotions are high this week but so is the energy. It brings Lazard back to a conversation he had with Rodgers almost two years ago now when he commended Lazard for how well he'd been performing on the scout team. It was a pivotal moment in the young receiver's career that made him feel unstoppable.
Having earned Rodgers' trust and friendship, Lazard now hopes to place the greatest crown of all atop the head of his two-time MVP quarterback.
"It means everything to me right now, to be in this position that I've been in," Lazard said. "Just to be able to have him say those words to me, and then those words coming to fruition for me to lead the threes and fours to work my way up to the ones and twos.
"I'm in the huddle with him. I'm starting games and he's counting on me in certain situations. At this point, it's nothing new as far as going out there and having high expectations for myself to be able to produce, and for the team to be able to lean on me more than it used to."
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