Grant's absence has benefits

From roster restrictions to extra reps, the starting RB's unsigned status won't be a problem until training camp starts

Would it be nice if Ryan Grant were signed and asserting himself as the Green Bay Packers' top running back? Yes.

Is his absence a big deal? No.

In fact, you could almost say his absence is doing the Packers a favor, and at this point, there's absolutely no pressure to get a contract done before players report for training camp on July 27 and begin practicing the next day.

First of all, with rosters limited to 80 — rather than 80 plus whoever played that spring in NFL Europa — rosters are tight. There are 78 players on the roster who are under contract, so there's a little slack, but at some point, the nine draft choices will begin signing contracts. Once 80 players are under contract, one player will have to be cut for every other player signed. Why cut players faster than absolutely necessary?

Second, Grant's absence is anything but a distraction. As he said, this is anything but a "boycott." He's taking part in all of the offseason program other than the on-the-field practices, and it's not like he's a neophyte to the offense.

"I don't think it's falling behind," Grant said after practice on Wednesday. "I know the concept of what we're trying to accomplish. I'm there watching, taking every mental rep. We're coaching each other in the backfield."

Third, while Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn allegedly have improved after iffy rookie seasons, they are about as far from sure things as possible. Thus, the fresher Grant is for meaningful snaps — you know, the ones in September through January instead of May and June — the better.

"I'll be pretty fresh," Grant said. "There are positives, and I have to be able to take something away from it.

"At the same end, I do want to make sure I'm putting myself through some type of strenuous workouts to make sure that conditioning-wise and physically, I'm ready to go."

Fourth, and most importantly, Grant's absence means plenty of extra reps for Jackson, Wynn, Noah Herron, Vernand Morency and undrafted rookie Kregg Lumpkin. The Packers deserpately need one or two of those players to emerge as Grant's backup and/or third-down back, so the added snaps during organized team activities and minicamp can only help.

"It's all about opportunity," said Jackson, who has taken more snaps as the No. 1 halfback than any of the other candidates. "(The coaches) didn't say much to me, but I know that I have to make the best of my opportunities knowing Ryan's not in right now."

"The whole group, it's just reps," coach Mike McCarthy said after Tuesday's practice. "Young players need reps, and these are quality reps. It's a teaching phase that we're going through with the offseason. Our team periods are spirited and competitive, so those are the reps that you really need as a young guy at any position. So, it's a great opportunity for Brandon. Brandon went through this in training camp, and you can see how he's progressed, and it's really a great opportunity for all the running backs."

Steve Lawrence is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com. E-mail him at steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com


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