Typical Ryan Grant: Tough and Team-First

Few players are as worthy of fans' admiration as Ryan Grant, who continues to impress on and off the field. He's a tireless worker, unselfish and, as he showed on Sunday at Chicago, still a heck of a good running back.

It was vintage Ryan Grant.

No, not on Sunday at Chicago. Though, that certainly looked like vintage Grant carrying the ball.

Rather, it was vintage Grant at his locker on Wednesday.

There was Grant, a man with a bruised kidney who had urine in his blood after running through the vaunted Bears defense, frustrated that he wasn't allowed to practice on Wednesday. Frustrated that he might not play on Sunday after missing almost all of last season with an injured ankle. Frustrated that he might miss a chance to "stack success, in coach Mike McCarthy's lingo, in what figures to be a season-long duel with James Starks for rushing attempts in a pass-first offense.

"Not necessarily to me," Grant said when asked if an injured internal organ is maybe a bigger deal than, say, a bruised forearm. "Maybe I'm a little jaded."

Maybe, but that's Grant.

Here's a guy who treats every carry during training camp like it's fourth-and-50 in the Super Bowl by sprinting faster and further than everyone else on the roster, even some undrafted rookie trying to impress the coaches.

Here's a guy who never starred at Notre Dame. Went undrafted. Didn't make the New York Giants' roster as a rookie in 2005 and wound up laboring on the practice squad. Spent 2006 on injured reserve after a freak injury left doctors wondering if he'd regain full use of his left arm. Was so far down the depth chart at the end of training camp in 2007 that the Giants traded him to the Packers for a measly sixth-round draft pick.

He's also a guy who accepted a pay cut after the lockout to help re-sign some of the team's own free agents, such as his friend, fullback John Kuhn. To top it off, he's the guy who was supposed to get the ball on James Starks' 40-yard run against Carolina.

"I want to win. I really want to win," Grant said matter-of-factly, as if that's the attitude everyone should have. "I didn't know James was going to break the long run. I'm glad he did, because I think we scored that drive. Being balanced in this offense is important to me, and sometimes the greater good of putting us in position to make big plays is important. The one thing I realized was teams were keying on me when I went in in two-back situations. Every time I went in, it was a run play. So, as soon as I went in, they would say, ‘It's a run.' So, put me in a few single-back formations or shotgun formations, it might change things up a bit. Just to keep ‘em honest. That was what we did that play. I just said switch it up. I don't have the control to make the decision, I just said we might want to do it."

It's funny how things work out. After the first two games, Starks ranked second in the league with 6.8 yards per carry. With Starks getting the bulk of the playing time, if not the bulk of the carries, Grant — sort of like Donald Driver — seemed like a starter in name only. And then came Sunday, when Grant looked as decisive as ever. He exploded through holes and exploded into defenders to get the most out of each attempt. He finished with 92 carries on 17 attempts, including five carries of 10-plus yards and two more for 9 yards.

Not a bad day's work considering one of the line's best run blockers, Bryan Bulaga, was lost for the game in the first quarter.

"You feel like you're on a roll and you want to keep that rolling right into the next weekend and stay in attack mode," Grant said. "It's like, ‘Damn.' It's a matter of what you do in the present. Coaches know that it's not about what you did in the past, it's about what you do in the present. So, how I started, how I played (against Chicago), if I started out that way against Denver, that'd dictate how the game goes. Especially how our run game is with Coach. His confidence in the run games builds if we start fast as a team running the ball. It's difficult. In this situation, I don't really have much control over it."

No, he doesn't. If Grant can't play against Denver and Starks runs wild, the potential ramifications are obvious. Or maybe Grant picks up where he left off when the Packers face Atlanta in two weeks, St. Louis the week after that or at some point during a late-season charge to the playoffs. Either way, it won't change Grant, who has become a consummate professional during his time in Green Bay.

"Not winning your last game will do that," Grant said. "We did win our last game last year, but I wasn't a part of it the way I wanted to be. Roles change. I think if anybody told you, I still feel like I'm the leader of this backfield, and I'm going to continue to be that leader. Doesn't mean other guys in this backfield can't make plays and won't make plays. You've got to be able to swallow whatever pride you have. You can't say you're about something, and not be about it. And I'm about winning — making plays and helping this team win. And sometimes, helping this team win might mean from the sideline."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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