Two weeks ago, Packers RB Eddie Lacy tripped all the way to the 61st overall pick. One reason was leaked afterward. Before his final year at Alabama, Lacy underwent surgery on the big toe of his right foot. For a bigger, mashing running back whose job is to inflict and absorb punishment, this was a red flag.
Only longevity - or a lack thereof - will ultimately prove who was right on draft day. But this week, both Lacy and his team doctor at Alabama insisted that the toe is not a problem. True, a small piece of bone in Lacy's big toe on his right foot was "fused." He did undergo turf toe surgery before his final season at Alabama. But it wasn't "toe fusion surgery" in the classic sense, his doctor said.
Lacy had surgery on his toe to prevent potential problems. Alabama's team doctor, E. Lyle Cain Jr., believes the window of legitimate concern - immediately after the surgery - has passed. One of Cain's partners teamed with a doctor from the Steadman Hawkins Research Clinic in Vail, Colo., to perform the bone fusion. Unlike the typical toe fusion surgery - which hardens the toe completely, limiting mobility - only the bone on the tip of Lacy's big toe was fused.
"The joint underneath the toenail was fused to allow the ligament to work better basically," Cain said. "It's something you do to give you a better push-off. His big toe moves just like a normal big toe in terms of motion. . . . If you fused it completely, it'd give you a stiff big toe and you can't push off and that's a big problem. In Eddie's case, he does not have that. His fusion does not affect his big-toe motion.
"The bottom line is, the fusion he had does not affect his big-toe motion."
We're not experts in toe fusion, but Lacy played the entire 2012 season after this surgery and looked no worse for wear. Based on what his team doctor said about the nature of his surgery, he should have a long and productive career.