GREEN BAY – Eddie Lacy leaned against a counter in the Green Bay Packers locker room Sunday night, the structure supporting nearly all of his 230 pounds.
The second-year running back had just finished totaling 126 yards of total offense on 29 touches against the Detroit Lions, the league’s top rated run defense and one of the top units in the NFL.
After rumbling for 68 yards on the first three plays of the game for the Packers – a total that topped the average allowed by the Lions per game – Lacy found the sledding a little tougher the rest of the way in Sunday’s win.
Over his next 23 rush attempts, he managed just 32 yards.
Winning may not cure all, but it allows you to laugh.
"Oh, man, it hurts," Lacy said with a giggle.
He called it one of the more physical games of the year, and Sunday’s victory gave the Packers a much-needed break this week as the playoffs begin.
"I’m definitely looking forward to this, man," Lacy said. "Nothing but rehabbing."
While the Packers have been healthier this season than they have in the last two, many key players do need the extra time to prepare their bodies for, what they hope, is an additional three games.
"It’s needed, but it’s earned," Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said. "It’s not easy to get those byes. You've got to play a lot of tough teams throughout a season, a long season, to get those. And for us to get that says a lot about our team, says a lot about the character, about the work that guys put in. Hopefully we get what we need out of the bye."
What every player needs in this week’s bye is treatment, and rest, and that includes quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The front-runner for the league Most Valuable Player award weighed the risks of re-injuring his calf in a return against the Lions with the benefits of securing this week off if he came back and the team won.
"As bad as it felt, I thought if I can go out there and be able to do some things and we win, I get another week to rehab," Rodgers said. "That was definitely in my mind."
The additional time will also allow cornerback Davon House, who was playing the best ball of his career, a better opportunity to return to the field after injuring his shoulder against Atlanta on Dec. 8.
The Packers have benefitted all year long from some scheduling quirks that have allowed for multiple "mini-byes" with two Thursday night games early in the season, followed by their regular bye in week 9.
Throw in the fact that the team has been dominant at home – 8-0 with an average margin of victory of 19.4 points – the win Sunday meant far more than just time to rest.
"Well, we want to play at home," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It’ll be great to play in two weeks at home. We prefer to play here. But this is playoff football now. Everything changes once we get going in two weeks. Playing at home doesn’t guarantee anything and there are no guarantees. But this is definitely where we prefer to play."
The Packers also won their fourth consecutive NFC North divisional championship, which may seem like just a footnote. But to a man in that locker room, it was a preseason goal, and winning that regular season championship had to be accomplished in order to even talk about resting for a week, and beginning the road to the Super Bowl in Green Bay.
"It’s almost one of them things that we don’t talk about but we expect to do it," said Williams, who has been a part of five division champions and seven playoff teams in his eight seasons in Green Bay.
"When it becomes second nature to you, that’s what you expect. That’s all we can expect at this point, to win the division and get in the playoffs. that’s what we do. The ultimate goal is to always win the Super Bowl, though. And thats what we do around there. Hopefully we can get back."
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.