Notebook: Opportunity, Not Revenge, On Grant's Mind

Running back Ryan Grant has been egged on by reporters this week about being traded from the Giants, the Packers’ opponent Sunday in the NFC Championship. They’re trying to see if he’ll say he’s got revenge on his mind, that he’s going to prove to the Giants that they shouldn’t have traded him. But Grant isn’t biting. It’s not his style, and he genuinely doesn’t feel that way anyhow. - More Audio | Video | Packers-Giants Game Center


RB Ryan Grant first touched the ball as a Packer in Week 2 against his former team, the New York Giants. Grant took a screen pass, spun away from one tackler, and rambled 21 yards down the sideline.

Running back Ryan Grant has been egged on by reporters this week about being traded from the New York Giants, the Packers' opponent Sunday in the NFC Championship.

They're trying to see if he'll say he's got revenge on his mind, that he's going to prove to the Giants that they shouldn't have traded him.

But Grant isn't biting. It's not his style, and he genuinely doesn't feel that way anyhow.

Traded to the Packers from a crowded Giants backfield on Sept. 1, Grant was admittedly surprised. He had been told he made the team in New York at the end of the preseason, and he wasn't going anywhere.

But he didn't take the decision to trade him personally. Looking at the big picture, it was a business decision by a team that had veterans Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns and Derrick Ward, plus rookie Ahmad Bradshaw, in the backfield, with only so many carries to go around.

"It's an opportunity and that's the way the NFL works, so I was excited about it and looking forward to contributing," Grant said.

He did say it felt good to have the support of his teammates, some of whom, including veteran defensive end Michael Strahan, publicly questioned the trade. But realistically, had Grant stayed in New York, he might never have received the opportunity he got in Green Bay when DeShawn Wynn went down with an injury in the second quarter of the Monday night game in Denver on Oct. 29, the unofficial launch of Grant's career.

Including that night, Grant topped 100 yards rushing five times in the regular season and then set a Green Bay playoff record with 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns last week against Seattle, recovering from two early fumbles to post the record-setting performance.

The only extra "juice" for Grant in this game is that a lot of his friends are playing on the same big stage, with the same opportunity he and the Packers have. Grant stays in touch with a lot of his former New York teammates, such as Jacobs and defensive lineman Justin Tuck, who is a close friend and former college teammate at Notre Dame, and was his roommate with the Giants. Grant said Tuck helped him get through his year out of football after a freak arm injury, and he appreciated that support.

Grant in turn was on the phone with several Giants after their playoff upset of the Cowboys last weekend, but he knows all the smiles and laughter will cease on Sunday. The thought of crashing into his good friend Tuck to gain some extra yards becomes just background noise come game time. Even moreso than when he was traded, it's all business now.

"We're competitors," Grant said. "I'm looking forward to it, and even though they are my friends and we know it's nothing personal, we want to win and we're competitors, and I expect that out of them. They're professionals also, and I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I'm excited about it and I can't wait."

Early imitation

During a conference call with reporters, Giants quarterback Eli Manning recalled that when he was in high school in New Orleans, his team was part of a film shoot for a TV show leading up to Super Bowl XXXI between the Packers and New England Patriots.

That Super Bowl was in New Orleans, and Manning's Isidore Newman High School played the part of Green Bay's offense for this TV shoot, with Manning wearing Brett Favre's jersey.

Manning said he wasn't trying to imitate Favre necessarily, but he did work in some of the fake "jump throws" that Favre was known for in his younger days, which Manning himself had been working on in high school.

"I was just trying to do whatever they said, but I'd do the handoff and do the jump shot after or do kind of a crazy fake," Manning said.

"He's always a guy that you always watched, and as a quarterback growing up you always liked watching the guys who were playing at the highest level, and he was a guy who was playing the best football then."

Favre won the second of his three straight MVP awards that season, leading the Packers

to the franchise's 12th world championship.

Cold memories

Favre was asked on Wednesday what he remembers as his first cold-weather game, and Favre pointed to the Dec. 26, 1993, contest at Lambeau Field against the then-Los Angeles Raiders.

The temperature that day was zero, with a minus-22 wind chill. Howie Long, who will be on the field for Fox's pre-game show on Sunday, was a defensive lineman in that game for the Raiders, and their starting quarterback was the well-traveled Vince Evans.

"I don't want to say it was unbearable -- I guess unbearable is you can't be in it," Favre said. "But it was as close to it as it could possibly be."

Favre didn't have too much trouble, throwing for 190 yards and a touchdown, to Sterling Sharpe, in a 28-0 blowout. It helped that the Raiders brought cleats that weren't suited to the frozen field, but Favre does remember having to concentrate more on every snap to handle the conditions.

{sportsad300}"Everything you do has to be thought about, I don't want to say in advance, but you just can't come back and hand off, you can't just toss the ball without thinking about it," he said. "You just can't drop back and make a throw. You can't make a little lob.

"Mentally you have to try to block that out and rise to the occasion. For those three hours you have to be better than the next guy, and I think in games like that, it does come down to this mental discipline."

Actually, looking in the history books, Favre's first true cold-weather game came a year earlier, on Dec. 20, 1992, at Lambeau Field against the Los Angeles Rams. With the temperature 8 degrees and the wind chill minus-15, Favre threw two touchdown passes in a 28-13 victory.

But it's understandable why Favre would remember the 1993 game more vividly. For one, the shutout over the Raiders clinched the team's first playoff berth since 1982 (and first playoff berth in a non-strike shortened season since 1972). Also, that 1993 game featured the first-ever "Lambeau Leap," when LeRoy Butler jumped into the end zone stands after taking a lateral from Reggie White and scoring on a fumble return.

Either way, the early cold-weather performances by Favre were good omens for him and the Packers. Including last week's win over Seattle, Favre is now 43-5 at home including playoffs when the temperature is 34 degrees or below.

"Someone has to do it," Favre said. "I've always said they'll pay someone else to do it if not me and I enjoy doing it. I consider it a huge challenge."

Injury update

The Packers listed seven players on the first injury report of the week, and all were limited in practice. None of the starters, however, is considered in jeopardy of missing the game.

Listed on the report were linebacker Nick Barnett (hamstring), tight end Bubba Franks (knee), receivers Greg Jennings (groin) and Koren Robinson (knee), cornerback Charles Woodson (knee) and center Scott Wells (glute).

McCarthy said Wells just "felt something" in practice, so he was pulled as a precaution. Barnett was sore after having a slight hamstring tweak last week, and he was limited as a precaution also.

The injuries to Franks, Jennings, Robinson and Woodson are minor ones they've been dealing with for a period of time, so those were nothing new.

Backup cornerback and punt returner Will Blackmon, who re-aggravated his foot injury in the regular-season finale, practiced some but was still a little sore. McCarthy said how he bounces back on Thursday from testing the foot a bit will be the key.

McCarthy couldn't guarantee he'd be ready to play and be able to return punts and/or play in the nickel or dime defensive packages.

"He needs to go through the whole week before we make that call," McCarthy said. "I'm not comfortable just putting him out there based on this important game. I want to see him do it in practice."

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