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  • Bill Huber (SI.com)

Lazard’s Goal? ‘I Want To Be the Best’

With an excellent finish to last season and a strong connection with Aaron Rodgers, Allen Lazard is ready to be the Green Bay Packers' new No. 1 receiver.


GREEN BAY, Wis. – A few years ago, Allen Lazard was fighting to make the Green Bay Packers’ roster. He’s fighting for something completely different in training camp this summer.

“I want to be the best receiver in the league,” Lazard said at Packers training camp on Saturday.

Lazard understands the grandeur of that statement, but you can’t get to the top without thinking big. Yes, tongue was in cheek when Aaron Rodgers called Lazard a Hall of Famer, but that statement showed Rodgers’ belief and faith. As the best veteran receiver on the roster, Lazard knows the opportunity that awaits.

“I know Davante Adams is still alive. I know Keenan Allen, Stefon Diggs, Justin Jefferson, guys like that around the league,” he continued. “Yes, I’m competing here every single day to earn those reps and targets but, overall, that’s the end goal I want to get to. Having that big-picture mentality but focusing on the small details.

“Right now, it’s just camp. We’ve only been through four days of practice, have gotten about halfway through the install and everything, so I’m not getting my vision too far down the road. But, ultimately, in the back of my mind, that’s where the end goal will be eventually, but focus on the now, just focus on getting better every single day and knowing I can only get to that level too if I have other great guys in my room to complement me.”

Lazard’s rise has been remarkable. He went undrafted out of Iowa State in 2018 and landed on Jacksonville’s practice squad. That’s where the Packers found him late in 2018. In 2019, he didn’t even make the opening 53-man roster. With the Packers losing at home against Detroit in October of that season, Rodgers convinced the coaches to give Lazard an opportunity. Lazard helped win that game, setting the stage for a new reality and a new motivation.


The days of fighting for a roster spot are over, as are the days of fighting to show he belongs on the field. Now, he’s fighting to show he can pick up the baton of being the next big-time Packers receiver. To be, in the words of Rodgers, “that guy” and a No. 1 receiver.


“I lived that life for several years,” Lazard said. “I’ve been fighting for targets, fighting for plays, just to be on the field. Whether it’s even a blocking play, I saw so much value and understood even if I’m on the field just to block, I’m still getting paid to do it. It’s definitely a new mentality, a new way to go about things this year, but I think the overall goal and my journey’s going to stay on track.”


For four years, this was Adams’ receiver group by word and by deed. Now, on paper, anyway, it’s the great unknown. Sammy Watkins has the draft pedigree. Christian Watson has physical tools. Romeo Doubs has been an early sensation. What those players don’t have – and won’t have for a while – is the connection to Rodgers. That connection, that trust, is a big thing. It’s not developed overnight. It’s grown through countless conversations on the practice field, meetings rooms and hallways.


Lazard has that connection, and it continues to grow now that he’s focusing only on receiver and not special teams.


“I think it’s slowly been on the gradual incline,” he said. “I try to spend as much time as I can with him, naturally, because of who he is and his position and my position. He’s obviously a fantastic player but a great human and awesome friend. Just for me and a couple guys in this room. the connection we’ve been able to build, the relationship that we’ve been able to have, is something that I’m grateful for. And I think the biggest thing is, for him, I don’t view him as any other different from my friends. I’m able to have a solid relationship and keep it real with him and vice-versa.”


Adams was targeted 169 times in 16 games last season, or 10.6 per game. Unless coach Matt LaFleur has been working on the wishbone inside the Don Hutson Center before the start of practice, those targets have to go to someone. That’s potentially a lot of opportunities for a player who, during the final five games of last season, among receivers ranked 27th in receptions, 19th in yards and tied with Adams for first in touchdowns.


After that strong finishing stretch, Lazard knew a huge season was looming with free agency on the horizon. Then, in February, the Packers traded Adams to the Raiders. The trade didn’t come as a big shocker to Lazard but it provided a golden opportunity to show he’s more than a role player, goon or complementary player.


“Maybe there was a little bit of a kick in a sense of urgency just from the departure of him and everything,” Lazard said, “but, overall, I already had that extreme sense of urgency just because of knowing I was going into my final year of my rookie deal and getting tendered. So, I think it added maybe a little fuel to that fire, so to speak, but it wasn’t like it ignited the flame.”


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