GREEN BAY – Lucas Patrick doesn’t portray himself as a tough guy.
Based on his affable personality and a mustache indicative of his jovial nature, the Packers’ second-year guard looks more likely to play the role of peacemaker in a scuffle than the guy in the middle of the fray.
Yet, seconds after Atlanta cornerback Brian Poole threw his shoulder into the back of a sliding Aaron Rodgers, there was Patrick screaming downfield to defend his quarterback.
It led to a momentary scrap between the two sides, complete with Falcons linebacker Deion Jones jumping on the back of the Packers’ 6-foot-3, 313-pound offensive lineman before cooler heads eventually prevailed.
In the locker room following the Packers’ 34-20 win, Patrick said he didn’t think twice about stepping up for the quarterback who has long supported him. At the same time, there have been other instances over the past few seasons where Patrick has shown an unexpected willingness to mix it up in defense of a teammate.
“That’s Lucas, man. Lucas is one of the toughest guys I know,” said receiver Davante Adams after the game. “I tell him after every game, and I think he really understands now, because I’m really in his ear. But he’s a competitor. He doesn’t even think about it.”
Patrick admits a hidden “nasty streak” lies beneath his easygoing demeanor. He credits his former Duke offensive line coach, John Latina, for instilling an enforcer mentality into his players.
While it’s important to not go overboard with things, Latina preached to his players the importance of protecting your quarterback at all times and finishing to the whistle on every down.
Patrick has kept a similar mindset since he got to the NFL. A former tryout player at the Packers’ rookie orientation camp in 2016, Patrick spent a full season on Green Bay’s practice squad before making the 53-man roster coming out of training camp a year ago.
One of the defining characteristics of Patrick’s play that stood out to both the coaching staff and teammates is his grit and unbridled determination forged through his long journey to make an NFL roster.
“I felt like each team kind of needs to have, not an enforcer, but somebody who’s willing to take it to the edge or toe the line,” Patrick said. “I’m not saying that you want to be a dirty player. We just watched the film. I don’t think I had a dirty hit (Sunday). I’m going to make you play every minute of every down. If you don’t like that and that infuriates you, then you’re entitled to your opinion, but that’s how I’m going to play.”
Patrick made only his third NFL start on Sunday in place of an injured Lane Taylor (foot). He was one of three reserves who stepped into the starting lineup for Green Bay with right tackle Bryan Bulaga and right guard Byron Bell both out with knee injuries.
Interim head coach Joe Philbin said the Packers prioritized a quick passing game early on to allow their backups to settle in on the offensive line. Patrick appreciated the opportunity to get his pads set, along with some of the disguises Green Bay used to make sure Atlanta couldn’t key in on run or pass.
While the dust-up in the second quarter gained the most attention, Patrick quietly did an admirable job between franchise left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley. Patrick played all 71 snaps in what marked his first start since last year’s regular-season finale against the Detroit Lions.
Hearing Rodgers and Adams praise his efforts after the game meant a great deal to Patrick, especially considering how the Packers’ two-time MVP quarterback went out of his way the past two years to compliment Patrick dating back to his first NFL start last year against the Chicago Bears.
“That probably does more for my confidence hearing that than whether I graded for a plus or a minus,” Patrick said. “Sometimes in this business you see people leave that you care about or you see different things happen with relationships, and you wonder really who’s got your back or what I’m doing for the team means to other people.
“Of course, ‘12’ ever since he made those nice comments after that Bears start, I’ve always thought highly of him. There’s also some off-field things that he’s done in my life – talking to people I know and being kind to my family members. … When your top playmakers say something nice about you, it makes you feel good.”