GREEN BAY – Very little has been handed to Lucas Patrick.
He came to Green Bay on a tryout in 2016 and didn't get a contract. Patrick was ready to move on with his life when the Packers called him back a few weeks later and offered a spot on their 90-man roster midway through the offseason program.
Since then, Patrick went from a perceived "camp body" to the practice squad to now being an entrenched member of the active roster and a key backup at the three interior positions on Green Bay's offensive line.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, Patrick knows his versatility could be critical to the Packers' fortunes this season. For that reason, he's taken all the necessary precautions to stay healthy – all the way down to adding a plastic shield to the mesh of his facemask.
"I think this season the best ability is availability," Patrick said. "Just knowing my role, what I've been through in camp is rotating on the inside three of the line. If something happens, I'd rather be the guy who's available, taking it serious and being safe."
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound offensive lineman has played in 40 games for the Packers, starting three games at both guard spots. Last year, Patrick also saw his first regular-season action at center after starter Corey Linsley was forced out of Green Bay's Week 5 game in Dallas and the regular-season finale in Detroit.
Patrick saw those experiences as invaluable, especially given both games were played on the road. Because no matter how many snaps you take in practice or the preseason, it's a different experience having to use a silent count in a noisy road stadium.
Patrick said that allowed him to "relax and trust" himself more this summer, knowing he can do it. The Packers agreed, feeling strongly enough about Patrick's upside to reward him with a contract extension last December, rather than place a tender on him as a restricted free agent in March. The organization previously took a similar approach with another of its undrafted success stories, Lane Taylor.
Patrick's proven track record, particularly in a pinch, had a lot to do with the Packers' desire to keep the 27-year-old in the fold for the foreseeable future.
"Anytime you show that versatility to play either guard position or the center position, it definitely brings more value to your team," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He's a guy that we know we can count on. Anytime that he goes in he does his job and he does it at a high level. He's a guy that we have a lot of confidence in."
It's not just what Patrick brings to the offensive line, either. Over his four years in Green Bay, Patrick has been an enforcer on the field and a budding leader in the locker room. Earlier this week, he joined several of his Packers teammates in calling for racial equality following the shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha on Aug. 23.
Patrick called his conversations with teammates this past week "life-changing," while encouraging people to set aside their differences and listen in an effort to "become a better society and hopefully fix some of these issues."
"What I wanted to encapsulate with that is this isn't an issue that's just our Black brothers and sisters, it's not just their fight," Patrick said. "We need to stand up, too, as white people. We need to come to their aid and help them in any way that we can. I've had the amazing opportunity to spend some great time and have some great conversations with men I love as brothers and open my eyes and open my heart."
Although Patrick no longer is a rookie longshot trying to make his dream come true, that doesn't mean he's gotten comfortable or complacent. He understands how quickly things can change in the NFL and that reality pushes him toward improvement.
The NFL train is quickly rolling towards a season unlike any other and Patrick will be ready should his number be called.
"The contract was great," Patrick said. "(I'm) honored to be here, honored to be a guy this team sees a future with, but it's not going to change my mentality – or it hasn't changed my mentality. I'm still going to come in every day, the same kid who showed up in 2016 for a tryout."