Veteran running back Ryan Grant is back and ready to shine for the Packers.
By ASSOCIATED PRESSFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) —Ryan Grant isn't bitter. He's just in a hurry.
Green Bay Packers' veteran running back made it clear when he re-signed with his former team on Dec. 5 that he wasn't harboring a grudge over the club's decision to sign another veteran running back, Cedric Benson, in August. And he also said he wasn't mad that when injuries struck, the Packers added two young, unproven backs before finally giving him a call.
Grant has spent most of the year out of football -- he was with the
Washington Redskins from Sept. 26 through Oct. 23, playing in one game and getting one carry -- and just wants to keep things moving, as he did last Sunday, when he carried 20 times for 80 yards and two touchdowns and added a 34-yard catch-and-run in the Packers' 55-7 blowout of the Tennessee Titans.
"I feel like I'm making up for lost time, so you have a little push with that and a little edge, a chip. Of course," Grant said as the Packers prepared for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome. "But that's OK. Whatever drives the person is what drives them. So I'm OK with that -- I really am. And that's natural. It's not a bitterness. It's just, I've got to make up (time). So I have to take advantage of the time I get."
If the Packers beat the Vikings Sunday and secure the NFC's No. 2 seed and the first-round bye that comes with it, the team could have four halfbacks at its disposal in the NFC Divisional Playoff round.
Second-year man Alex Green, who missed last week's game with a concussion, is expected to return to action Sunday, while former starter James Starks, who injured a knee against the Vikings on Dec. 2, could be back for the Jan. 12-13 divisional weekend. DuJuan Harris, one of the young backs the Packers added ahead of Grant, was promoted from the practice squad on Dec. 1. The other, Johnny White, picked up on waivers from Buffalo on Oct. 15, was put on IR with a concussion to make room for Grant.
Benson, who injured a foot Oct. 7 and was originally placed on injured reserve with the designation to return but wound up needing surgery and won't be back this season.
While coach Mike McCarthy has said he's going to use the running back-by-committee approach, he's also said he'd prefer to have one guy carry the load. And for much of McCarthy's time in Green Bay, starting midway through the 2007 season, that guy had been Grant, the fifth-leading rusher in franchise history.
"Trust me, we're in tune with the production of every guy. If one of them gets the hot hand, we're going to go. I'm not playing favorites," McCarthy said. "If we feel someone is hot running the football, he will run the football."
On Sunday, that guy was Grant.
"Obviously we have a plan going in, with the amount of carries we want to give each guy, the type of carries we want to give them. But it changes on game-day, it could change quickly," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said.
"I think we feel good about our three guys (with) getting Alex back now, and the possibility of getting James back down the road. As a running back room, we're feeling pretty good about the guys we have and the potential we have to help the team win in the playoffs."
Grant has proven himself in late-season situations before. Last season, when he was sharing carries with Starks, he ran 42 times for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the team's final four regular-season games and added seven receptions for 162 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown in the regular-season finale. Of his 827 yards from scrimmage last season, 405 came in the final four games.
Before missing the team's 2010 Super Bowl run because of a leg injury he sustained in the regular-season opener, Grant also had huge late-season games in 2009 (with a 137-yard, two-TD effort in Chicago on Dec. 13), 2008 (with 104- and 106-yard efforts against Houston and Detroit in the final four weeks of the regular season) and 2007 (with a team playoff-record 201-yard, three-TD game against Seattle in an NFC Divisional Playoff game on Jan. 12, 2008).
"He always runs the ball well in the winter months," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "We've kind of always said it with Ryan: He runs the ball really hard in November, December and January. I'm so happy for him. He was on the street a few weeks back, and it's all the things I've always said about him: He's a great teammate, he practices really hard, and he sets a great example for those young guys. He studies hard, he knows the plan, he knows where he's supposed to be. He's a one-cut guy and a downhill runner and he's tough to tackle."