Grant Gunning For More

It had been five years since a Green Bay Packers running back had rushed for 1,200 yards in one season, and Ryan Grant’s 1,203 yards in 2008 has been topped only six times, by just three other backs, in team history. But ask Grant himself what he thought of his 1,200-yard season, and his answer is simple and direct. It wasn’t good enough.

090102grant215.jpg



It had been five years since a Green Bay Packers running back had rushed for 1,200 yards in one season, and Ryan Grant's 1,203 yards in 2008 has been topped only six times, by just three other backs, in team history.

But ask Grant himself what he thought of his 1,200-yard season, and his answer is simple and direct.

It wasn't good enough.

"No," Grant said, point-blank. "If I felt like that was what I was, yeah it would be good enough. But that's not what I feel like. I feel like I should have had 1,400 or 1,500 yards this year, easy."

The "easy" part may be a bit of an exaggeration, because nothing seemed to come easy for Grant as he took the first full 16-game pounding of his career, with 312 carries, the fourth-most in one season for any Green Bay back.

But, in the midst of some outside criticism that the Packers may have overpaid for a player who was a feature back for barely more than half a season in 2007, Grant is the first to admit he didn't get as much out of those 312 carries as he should have.

In analyzing his season, there are essentially two areas where Grant left those extra 200 or 300 yards on the field he thought he should have had. Those areas were big plays and early-season production.

Grant nearly cracked 1,000 yards in just nine games as the primary back in 2007 largely because of his big-play prowess. He broke off 11 runs of 20 yards-or-more in those nine regular-season games, and added four more in his 201-yard playoff performance against Seattle, for a total of 15 in 228 rushes.

But in 2008, Grant gained 20 yards-or-more on just six of his 312 carries, and he had just four until the regular-season finale against Detroit, when he added two more. After a 57-yard run in the fourth quarter of the season opener against Minnesota, Grant went eight straight games without a run of 20-plus, finally getting another on his second carry in Week 11 against Chicago, when he went on to a season-high 145-yard day.

Head Coach Mike McCarthy, offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and running backs coach Edgar Bennett all have said the lack of long runs was not all on Grant. But he didn't break as many tackles nor make as many second-level defenders miss as he did the previous year, and Grant plans to regain that kind of explosiveness and elusiveness for next season.

"They hold me to a certain standard, and nobody is going to be harder on themselves than I will," Grant said. "The evaluation process has already begun, and we have to do more. I have to do more."

Grant also would have a much better chance of posting that 1,400- or 1,500-yard season if he's able to start the season stronger.

Contract negotiations kept him off the field for all of the organized team activities (OTAs) last spring, and when he did return to the field with his new deal early in training camp, he injured his hamstring. The recovery was slow, and even though Grant didn't miss any regular-season games, the change in his production once he had a "training camp" under his belt was notable.

Through the season's first six games, while still battling the hamstring, Grant rushed for just 59.8 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. Then, beginning with his first 100-yard game in Week 7 against Indianapolis, he averaged 84.4 yards per game and 4.1 yards per carry the rest of the season.

{sportsad300}"I think it took him a while needless to say to work his way back into football shape, to get comfortable with those reads, get the timing, getting hit again, all those things," Philbin said. "The second half of the season he kind of got back to where he was."

How much of the slow start could be attributed to the hamstring injury versus the lack of practice time in the offseason and training camp is impossible to distinguish, because the two issues became inextricably related in early August.

But there's no doubt the Packers feel having Grant healthy and available for an entire offseason and training camp will benefit his and the offense's output.

"I think that's going to help," Philbin said. "For a guy that played half a year and wasn't part of an OTA or a training camp (here) before, I think it's very important. Obviously as a coach we're of the opinion that practice is valuable, and I think getting him here in March, getting him here for all the IPWs (individual position workouts), all the OTAs, all the camps, you gotta believe that's going to make him a better player."

And that's what Grant expects to become in 2009, a better player. One who isn't lamenting the couple of hundred yards he left on the field, and one whose 1,400- or 1,500-yard season is a reality, not a missed opportunity.

"It's feasible, and if I felt it was a crazy standard, it wouldn't be the standard," Grant said. "But I think everybody in this locker room including the coaches, including 'EB', know what I'm capable of and know what we are as an offense.

"More consistency, more leadership. To be that guy, just more."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising