Grant Looks To Reap Benefits From Full Offseason

As he enters his third season with the Packers, running back Ryan Grant is going through his first full offseason of work with the team, and he is hoping that will pay dividends for him and the offense in '09.

Grant, who was acquired by Green Bay at the end of training camp in 2007 in a trade with the New York Giants, attended OTAs and mini-camp last offseason, but his involvement in practice was limited to watching since he had not yet signed his exclusive-rights tender. He then missed the first six days of training camp before agreeing to a long-term contract extension with the Packers on Aug. 3, only to suffer a hamstring injury in practice three days later that sidelined him for much of the preseason.

Compare that to this offseason, one that has seen Grant on the field throughout, and he is eager to be on the field for the first snap of training camp Aug. 1.

"I'm looking forward to it," Grant said. "It will actually be my first real training camp. Guys are putting the work in and I'm excited about it.

"We're moving fast as an offense and I'm going to be trying to move fast. I definitely feel comfortable with where we have gone offseason-wise, running the ball. So I'm looking forward to it."

Although Grant was slowed by the hamstring injury during the early portion of the season, he did manage to play in every game and lead the team with 1,203 yards on 312 carries (3.9 avg.) to become only the fourth player in franchise history to eclipse 1,200 yards rushing in a season. His 312 attempts rank fourth for a single season in team history, and he was one of only five players in the NFL to carry the ball 300 times in '08.

"Inconsistent," replied Grant when asked to grade his 2008 campaign. "I think there is always room to improve. Of course staying healthy is the number one thing. There are definitely things that I definitely want to work on and get back to. I have been focusing a lot on explosion. As long as my legs are healthy, I feel like I have that. That's the major thing."

Despite the impressing overall rushing numbers, Grant did see a drop in the amount of explosive runs compared to his '07 campaign, one that saw him become one of the most productive runners in the league over the second half of the season. His 929 yards on the ground since Week 8 in '07 were second only to San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson (947).

In the 10 games as the primary ball carrier in 2007, Grant recorded 24 runs of 10-plus yards. Last season he posted just 27 in 16 games, although he did see improvement in that area as the season went on with 16 of those runs coming in the final eight games, which coincided with his health improving. Three of his four 100-yard rushing games also came in the second half of the season, including a season-best 145 vs. Chicago in Week 11.

"He definitely wasn't quite himself earlier in the season, but that's just part of it," running backs coach Edgar Bennett said. "At this level, sometimes you have to endure injuries and play through injuries. He certainly showed up week in and week out, so you have to admire the guy for that, not being 100 percent.

"Certainly he got better as the season went on as far as being more explosive. Starting out with a hamstring injury, that limits him some because that's a big part of his game with being able to break tackles and having that home-run ability."

{sportsad300}Bennett, who played running back in the NFL for seven seasons, including five with the Packers, said while he knows the injury was frustrating for Grant, it might serve as a benefit to him in the long run.

"Having a guy that has the will and mindset to battle through those injuries, it's a plus," Bennett said. "It's a guy that is showing leadership and going out there day in and day out. I think the experience helped him."

Besides looking for a jump in the number of explosive runs, Bennett said the other focus for Grant this season is improving fundamentals.

"Having him here this entire offseason, he was able to focus and improve on his fundamental skill set, from a runner as well as pass protections and being a receiver out of the backfield," Bennett said. "He was able to work on a lot of different areas.

"I think once we get back (for training camp) and put those pads on, I think he'll let his play do the talking."

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