Corey Grant looking forward to fresh start in Green Bay

Fourth-year running back healthy once again after Lisfranc injury derailed his 2018 season

RB Corey Grant
RB Corey Grant

GREEN BAY – Corey Grant had been on the radar of the Packers and General Manager Brian Gutekunst for some time prior to his signing with the team Friday.

Yet, it was a call from Grant's former coach in Jacksonville, current Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, that sold the 5-foot-11, 203-pound running back on making Green Bay his next NFL destination.

"When he called me and after I talked to him, I thought it was a done deal," said Grant after Friday's practice.

Prior to a season-ending foot injury in 2018, Grant made a name for himself as the Jaguars' home-run threat out of the backfield and on special teams. He executed two successful fake punts in 2017, one for 58 yards against Baltimore in Week 3 and then a 56-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 10.

Those two attempts helped contribute to the 412 rushing yards and three touchdowns Grant amassed on only 62 carries (6.6-yard average) in the 2016-17 seasons. The Jaguars thought enough of the former undrafted free agent's production to extend him a second-round tender in 2018.

The move ensured the Jaguars would retain Grant's rights as a restricted free agent and positioned him for a key role in the offense behind powerful playmaker Leonard Fournette.

Before he could build upon that momentum, however, Grant suffered what would later be diagnosed as a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot in the second quarter of the Jaguars' Week 5 matchup with Kansas City.

And just like that, a once-promising season was over.

"That was like a bad break," Grant said. "(With) a second-rounder tender, I was hoping for a great year and then get a long contract extension. But then had that bump in the road."

Coincidentally, that foot injury is what brought Grant on his first trip to Green Bay eight months ago, when renowned foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson performed his surgery at the Bellin Health Titletown Sports Medicine and Orthopedics facility, located across the street from Lambeau Field.

Grant said he was cleared to return about a month and a half ago and believes he still possesses the same 4.24 speed that made him an attractive NFL prospect coming out of Auburn in 2015.

He made his first NFL start against Indianapolis in the 2016 regular-season finale, carrying the ball 18 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. He also returned kickoffs for the Jaguars, boasting a 23.6-yard average on 41 attempts, including a career-long 68-yard return in 2017.

As a third-string option behind Fournette and T.J. Yeldon, Grant caught three first-half passes for 59 yards against New England in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 21, 2018.

"I know he's really, really fast," said Head Coach Matt LaFleur after practice Friday. "That's definitely somebody Gutey had his eye one and then we used Hackett to help recruit him here, because he had some other teams interested in him."

The Packers entered training camp with only four natural running backs on the roster in Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, rookie Dexter Williams and veteran Tra Carson, who missed most of the offseason program with a hamstring injury.

The coaches haven't wasted any time rotating Grant in during team periods thus far, especially with Jamaal Williams sitting out Saturday's practice with a hamstring issue.

The Packers had shoulder pads on for Day 3 of training camp practice.

The early workload hasn't been too tall a task for Grant, who has noticed familiarities with the offensive concepts and language Hackett previously used in Jacksonville.

That history with Hackett and a clean bill of health are what now give Grant hope Green Bay's offense can help him fulfill the potential he flashed during his time in Jacksonville.

"It makes it easier being in the same offense with Hackett the past couple of years," Grant said. "Even though these past two days have been spinning, the playbook is coming back a little bit. Like similar concepts but some things have changed. It will take some time, but it's coming back."

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