Standing by

Grant, Packers patient in unconventional holdout, says Packer Report's Tyler Dunne

It's not your run-of-the-mill holdout.

No, Ryan Grant didn't take one handoff through Green Bay's four minicamp practices this past week. Yes, he wants a new contract.

But the Packers' starting running back has hardly been an isolated dissident.

Grant actually pulled into 1265 Lombardi Ave. in early May – three weeks before most veterans.

He was in attendance all week, standing attentively with his teammates behind 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 scrimmages and sporadically slamming into blocking sleds on the sideline.

Grant has frequented the film room daily in an endless pursuit to perfect the Packers' zone-blocking scheme.

And over the coming days Grant will probably be feeling more aches and pains than most of the players that actually practiced. Grant had his top-left wisdom tooth yanked out after practice Thursday.

"I'll get it out now, so I don't have to worry about it," Grant said. "I'll just be kicking it for awhile now, straight kicking it."

Minicamp concluded the same way it began – without Grant in the backfield. Last season's footnote early season pickup that catapulted into a leading role on the Packers' NFC title run isn't willing to sign a $370,000 exclusive rights tender. Rather, he's seeking a long-term extension.

While Grant didn't provide specifics on his contract's progress, he "absolutely" expects to get a deal done sometime in the five-week lull before training camp.

"Yeah, definitely," he said. "I'm real confident moving forward and optimistic about a lot of things."

Grant's holdout lacks any sense of visible urgency or anger from the top down. No T.O./Ocho Cinco pouting from the source. No Drew Rosenhaus media squawking from the agent (Alan Herman). No hardball lingo from the coach.

Arguably Green Bay's best offensive weapon isn't practicing, yet it's hardly a distraction.

"I think he has done the best that he possibly can, based on their approach, and that is really what I keep focused on," McCarthy said last week. "It's a business matter, and he will stay the course and hopefully we'll get it resolved."

Grant holds minimal leverage in the holdout, having only played nine games as the team's breadwinning back. However, the Packers are nearly $35 million under the salary cap, and they won't need to shell out blockbuster contracts to any rookies.

Considering the sorry state of the pre-Grant rushing attack, GM Ted Thompson is surely treating Grant more diplomatically than Javon Walker three years ago. Like Grant, Walker demanded a new contract after just one knockout season. But this is different. Castoffs from the af2 Green Bay Blizzard could've churned out more than the 2.7 yards per carry the Packers' RB-by-committee did in last season's first four games.

Grant finished with 956 yards on 188 carries (5.1 avg.) and eight touchdowns in only nine starts. After two first-quarter fumbles in Green Bay's divisional playoff game against Seattle, Grant bounced back to rush for 201 yards and three touchdowns – both franchise records.

Grant isn't showing the bitter symptoms of a prototypical contract holdout. His attention remains crisp and his demeanor remains upbeat. At one point during practice Thursday, Grant suddenly ran a dead sprint down the sideline for no apparent reason.

During his unconventional holdout, Grant has also been proactive individually.

"Everything. Drills on my own. Conditioning on my own. Ball work," he said. "And of course the mental stuff, I'm getting just as much as everyone else is getting. Probably, even more."

The Notre Dame alum wants to add mass to his 224-pound frame in an effort to become more of a 20-carry per game, bell-cow back. But he also knows how he got here. Last season, Grant busted loose for 11 runs of 20 yards or more – third-most in the NFL.

He won't compensate speed for bulk.

"I do take pride in being able to break long runs," Grant said. "I want to stay explosive and be able to break tackles. But I also want to be in the best shape. I don't want to have to come off the field."

In his first season, Mike McCarthy and then-offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski installed the famed zone-blocking scheme, which was spawned in the mid-90s by offensive line coach Alex Gibbs in Denver. The one-cut scheme requires a downhill runner that can anticipate blocks and cut against the grain at the snap of a finger.

Grant's hard-nosed, head-forward running style made Green Bay's ZBS successful in 2007. But the Packers' No. 1 back wants the run game to be "dominant" in 2008. So he's constantly critiquing his body lean on film and studying diagrams of ZBS legend, Terrell Davis.

"The way I ran, I automatically feel comfortable with the scheme," he said. "But I've never ran the zone scheme before. There's a lot more that I can learn about it, so I'm definitely trying to do that."

After getting his tooth pulled, Grant plans to fly back to New York and train with his former Giant teammates, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward.

Technically, Grant held out of Green Bay's minicamp this week. Realistically, he didn't. At the conclusion of Thursday's minicamp finale, Grant joined his 87 teammates at midfield for a sendoff "Super Bowl" chant in unison. Football – not business – is his primary focus.

"The real thing is coming up," he said. "As a team we got a lot of great work done in minicamp and we're moving forward to what we're trying to accomplish."

Packer Report correspondent Tyler Dunne is a student at Syracuse University and also an intern this summer at the Shawano (Wis.) Leader.


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