GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers signed free-agent running back Ryan Grant, one day after finding out that running back James Starks will be out multiple weeks with a knee injury.
Grant took part in Green Bay’s Wednesday morning practice, the first time he’s been with the team since the Packers’ playoff loss in January.
“Ryan Grant looks good,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He’s in very good shape. It’s great to have him back. He walked into the gym walkthrough this morning after completing his business and got a standing ovation, so I think that tells you what the locker room thinks of him.
“It’s good to have him back.”
Grant played five seasons in Green Bay from 2007 to 2011 and ran for more than 1,200 yards in two of them.
“Ryan has great history with us,” McCarthy said. “He kind of stepped right in. The offense has evolved, there’s some new terminology, but I don’t see him having any issues getting ready.
“I don’t think we expect him to go out and play 60 plays this week. We’ll let the week’s work give us some information on where he is. We’re not looking for him to go out and play the full game.”
McCarthy did confirm, though, that Grant, who will turn 30 on Sunday, will play in the home game that night against the division-rival Detroit Lions.
“I feel good physically,” Grant said in the locker room. “I think the coaches are doing a good job of just trying to make sure I’m as prepared as possible. I feel good football-wise. I stayed mentally and physically involved and attached to the game. I’m looking forward to it.
“Really, the biggest thing is making sure my legs are underneath me and just protection-wise, gameplan-wise, that I’m sound from that aspect.”
Grant was not re-signed by the Packers in the offseason, with the team deciding instead to bring in Cedric Benson. Benson was placed on injured reserve two months ago with a Lisfranc foot injury, but even then Green Bay didn’t want Grant.
“That’s the business aspect of it,” Grant said. “I don’t take things personal in this business.”
Grant spent one month with the Washington Redskins midway through this season and had one carry for 5 yards before being released Oct. 23. Grant was again a free agent and remained one for six weeks until the Packers called.
“I definitely didn’t think that was it for my career (after being cut by Washington),” Grant said. “This league is a funny one. I didn’t think I was going to be out of football that long. That’s just how it goes. You just prepare yourself with what you can do. I had no control over other things. I just made sure I moved forward, worked out and made sure I was ready if something else breaks.”
That break came for Grant after Starks suffered a knee injury Sunday. On Monday, McCarthy thought Starks’ injury was “nothing of a serious nature,” but it turned out to worse than expected.
“James Starks, it will definitely be multiple weeks,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “He won’t be ready this week. It’s something that flared up on Monday. He just thought he had a bruise. They wanted to check it. They didn’t like what they saw. James thought he was fine to play. Then they did some more tests and did not like what they saw.
“It will definitely be a multiple-week injury.”
Starks had impressed McCarthy in recent games and scored on a 22-yard touchdown run Sunday in a win over the Minnesota Vikings.
“I liked what James Starks did; I thought he stepped up,” McCarthy said after the 23-14 victory. “I thought James was a little cut above today and that’s why I went with him in the fourth quarter.”
This is the latest in what has been a career filled with ill-timed injuries for the 26-year-old Starks. He didn’t play his senior year in college because of a shoulder injury, missed the majority of his rookie season in the NFL with a torn hamstring, had knee and ankle injuries last season and suffered a turf-toe injury in the first week of preseason this year that kept him out two months.
It was Starks’ preseason injury that led to the Benson signing. Though Starks has not been placed on injured reserve, his knee injury now has given Grant a chance to get back into the mix in Green Bay.
“It’s great to see him back, back in the green and gold,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said of Grant. “I’ve missed him. He’s done a lot of great things for this organization; he’s a great teammate. We’re excited to have him back.
“We’ve won a lot of games together. He’s been a part of a lot of big victories. He’s as tough as they come, he runs as hard as anybody, especially in the winter months, and he’s made some big plays for us over the years. It’s good to have him back. Just his presence in the locker room alone is fun, and it’ll be good to see him get back out there and make some plays.”
The Packers’ 20th-ranked rushing offense will have to get by the rest of this season with Grant, second-year running back Alex Green — who leads the team in rushing with 360 yards — and fullback John Kuhn, at least until Starks can return — if he’s able to at all.
All that Grant needs now to make his return to the Packers official is an actual locker spot. After Wednesday’s practice, Grant was put in the large auxiliary room with the young practice-squad players.
“I have a bunch of lockers back there,” Grant said. “That’s kind of cool. I’ve probably got the most lockers in here. That’s all right. Maybe long term. I’ve got about four lockers back there. I can spread all my stuff around.”