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Allen Lazard aims to be steady, reliable target for post-bye Packers

Young WR ready if his role increases down the stretch

WR Allen Lazard
WR Allen Lazard

GREEN BAY – It was an honest answer that makes it hard not to wonder what lies ahead.

Late last month, after Packers receiver Allen Lazard put together a couple of productive outings, Head Coach Matt LaFleur was asked if the seemingly out-of-nowhere contributor should have seen the field sooner, particularly in the wake of Davante Adams' month-long injury absence.

LaFleur responded it was a fair question.

Fast forward to the post-bye preparations for a big NFC showdown in San Francisco, and the Packers' coaches have done their self-scout to set things up schematically and personnel-wise for the stretch run. Given LaFleur's honest reflection, it's not a leap to think Lazard might factor considerably in the offense's plans.

After all, he has been targeted more than any other Packers receiver over the last five games, 24 times in all. He's caught exactly three-quarters of them, compiling 18 receptions for 220 yards.

Not a bad run for a guy who began Week 1 on the practice squad, was elevated to the active roster before the opener in Chicago and played sparingly on offense and special teams through the season's first five games.

So where does it go from here?

"You never know," Lazard said.

To be accurate, that response was to a question about who will emerge this week in a Packers offense that has featured rotating heroes. The lingering but positively toned uncertainty for what the rest of the season holds specifically applies to Lazard, too. He hasn't quite had the encore to his dominant fourth quarter and critical 35-yard TD grab vs. Detroit on Monday night in Week 6, so maybe it's coming after the bye-week reset.

But if his role does increase, Lazard won't change his approach. Undrafted after a record-setting career at Iowa State, Lazard came to Green Bay from Jacksonville's practice squad late last season, and he's simply tried to be the "same person every single day."

Lazard unabashedly revealed to reporters this week that his mentality includes making his bed every day as soon as he wakes up. The housekeeping routine is part of his daily mental reboot that has kept him even-keeled whether he's getting cut in the final roster reduction to 53 players back on Aug. 31 or catching three passes from Aaron Rodgers on a game-winning drive to beat the Lions on Oct. 14.

The Green Bay Packers hit the practice field to prepare for Sunday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium.

"He's done exactly what I hoped and expected from him, with his opportunity," Adams said. "I'm just proud of how he's gone about it. He's a very level-headed guy, really smart. He and A-Rod have developed a little bit of a relationship off the field, you can see that as well, and that helps.

"He's just a reliable guy. Same guy every day. You don't wonder who's going to walk through the door."

Reliable is the same word Rodgers uses to describe him. At 6-foot-5, 227 pounds, Lazard has a physical body type that's enticing to any quarterback, but it's the mental acuity in his preparation and knowledge of responsibilities that has earned Rodgers' trust in a fairly short amount of time.

In addition to catching passes, Lazard also is proving to be a strong perimeter blocker to help the run game, notwithstanding a questionable block-in-the-back call at Los Angeles three weeks ago.

"I think it starts with his habits. The way you approach your job is very important to your opportunities," Rodgers said. "I'm very proud of the way that he's stepped up. It's never been too big for him, it really hasn't. That's a characteristic of the guys that we've had here who have been contributors, consistent contributors."

It's also what keeps Lazard from looking at Sunday night's much-anticipated matchup between the 9-1 49ers and 8-2 Packers any differently. Oh sure, he knows it's a big game, but it's not really any bigger than getting thrown in for your first major NFL action against a division rival in prime time your team trailing, and coming up huge.

The Packers are going to need performances like that from somebody, or multiple bodies, down the stretch to complement the work Adams and running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will be called upon to do as offensive leaders.

Lazard won't get hung up on whether, or when, it's going to be him, though. The tight ends are going to get their chances, and he sees the production of fellow receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow and himself as a collective effort in the big picture.

"We know Davante's going to have his snaps, he's going to have his fair share of balls, and the rest of it is up to us," Lazard said. "Whether I'm getting five catches or 10 catches, or if we're splitting it up three, three, and three, however. We know our role as a combined unit is to make those plays.

"Whoever's hot, whoever can make plays and help our team win. That's all we care about."

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