BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Jack Del Rio and Chuck Pagano know what Mike McCarthy is going through with Eddie Lacy.
Unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, there is no surefire way for McCarthy to make sure his running back comes back in better shape next season, according to the two NFL coaches who tried to get another former Alabama running back to lose weight.
Both Del Rio and Pagano dealt with an overweight and out-of-shape Trent Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Pagano never had any luck before the Indianapolis Colts finally cut him last March. Del Rio didn’t see enough from Richardson to keep him on the roster last season when the Oakland Raiders signed him shortly after he was released in Indianapolis.
The Colts seemingly tried everything. They fined him 14 times for failing to make weight.
"You can tell him exactly the parameters, where you want him when he shows up, and then it’s up to the individual while you’re away," Pagano said during Tuesday’s AFC coaches breakfast at the NFL owners meetings. "We can’t do anything while they’re away, because everything’s voluntary at this point, and so I think it’s up to individual to make a decision if he wants to be a part of that team or if he doesn’t want to be a part of that team."
At one point last season, when it became clear that Lacy was well above his listed weight of 234 and his performance had suffered, Lacy insisted he had not been fined for any weight-related issues. However, McCarthy made it clear after the season that Lacy "cannot play at the weight he was at [last] year."
It appears Lacy has taken that to heart. He has spent part of this offseason working out with P90x founder Tony Horton in Wyoming and California, and last month at the combine, McCarthy expressed confidence that Lacy got his message.
"Eddie will take care of business," McCarthy said then. "I have great confidence that he will. I think we’ll see definitely a different guy in April, and more importantly in July."
The Lacy-Richardson comparison isn’t an exact match. Lacy was far more productive early on, rushing for more than 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons before he dipped under 800 yards last season. Richardson’s best season was his rookie year of 2012, when he rushed for 950 yards for the Cleveland Browns. But the Browns traded him to the Colts a year later.
Pagano said there’s only so much a coach can do to motivate a player.
"Hopefully the guy’s got the right mindset to where he’s a self-motivated guy, and that he understands that in order to be productive and be the very best player he can be, he needs to be in the best physical shape that he can be in," Pagano said. "We have limitations, obviously, with the offseason program and the work rules and the way the CBA is set up. Everybody has to work under those same guidelines. Guys have to be pros and you have to count on them being professionals, and you’ve got to count on them doing their job while they’re away from their job -- doing their job while they’re away from their job during the dead period on their down time that they’re taking care of their bodies and in the gym and mentally, physically they’re staying on top of it."
Del Rio said he doesn’t necessarily think a heavy running back is an ineffective running back.
"Everybody’s different," Del Rio said. "People said that about Jerome Bettis for a long time, and he’s got a bust in the Hall of Fame now. Everybody’s different. You’re still talking about men competing and doing their thing. Every back is different, but being able to be effective and being able to do things that your team wants you to do so that you have an opportunity when you get your carries, that’s important."