Notebook: Grant puts pads on early

‘Fundamentals' are problem; starting corners sit; and tons more from Sunday's scrimmage

Running back Ryan Grant signed his lucrative four-year contract on Sunday, then suited up in full pads for the Family Night Scrimmage at Lambeau Field as if he was ready to make up for the nine practices he missed.

Not surprisingly, considering he hasn't taken a snap since January's NFC championship game, Grant watched Sunday night's workout from the sideline. But, ending a seven-day holdout was a "relief," and he's looking forward to Tuesday's practice.

"I think I'm in football shape now," Grant said. "Of course, you can't simulate playing in pads and everything like that, so I think that will take a little bit of time. I take real pride in the conditioning part of what I do and I think the training staff, they'll tell you what kind of shape I came in."

Coach Mike McCarthy, who voiced frustration with Grant and his agent after Saturday's practice, only to have Grant agree to a contract that evening, says it was critical for the standout halfback to get up to speed quickly.

"I saw Ryan briefly. He looks good. I'll be surprised if he's not in top shape," McCarthy said. "He needs to get in here with the pads on, just like everyone else. With the way Brandon Jackson has played, Vernand Morency, he's still behind those guys."

Grant said he didn't feel added pressure because of the magnitude of the contract — he could make $31 million if he hits all of the incentives. While he kept abreast of the goings on in Green Bay with practice scripts overnighted to his New Jersey home, his internal clock told him it was time to get to work.

"The business aspect, I don't have any control over that. The only thing that got to a point where I wasn't playing football," Grant said. "Mentally and physically at this point in time in the year, I'm used to playing football. It felt weird not being out there or around the guys.

To make room on the roster, the Packers released Thomas Gafford, who never really factored into the long-snapper battle with J.J. Jansen, an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame. With that move, none of the specialists — kicker Mason Crosby, punter Jon Ryan and Jansen — have a challenger in camp.

McCarthy's thoughts

A look at the stats shows it was a bad night for the offense. The Packers scored only one touchdown, an unheard of number in an event in which "I Don't Want to Work" rings in the spectators' heads for weeks because of the number of touchdowns typically scored. The quarterbacks combined to complete only 19 of 46 passes. Throw out Morency's 29-yard run, and the running game picked up just 50 yards on 15 attempts.

McCarthy, though, cautions fans and reporters to not read too much into the numbers.

"It goes both ways. It's never as good as you think it is. It's usually never as bad as you think it is," he said.

Still, there are plenty of gaffes to correct.

"Just having the opportunity to stand back and watch the whole scrimmage, it's just like I told the team: Everything that went well out there was sound fundamentally," McCarthy said. "There wasn't a lot of challenge schematically. We are a young football team. It was important for our guys to line up and play. It was a fundamentally based scrimmage. I saw some bad fundamentals. I saw some bad technique."

Role call

With more than an hour-and-a-half of storms before the scrimmage, the coaches decided there was no reason to risk starting cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson on a wet field.

Also out of action were center Scott Wells (trunk), running back DeShawn Wynn (concussion), defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (knee), cornerback Condrew Allen (knee), receiver Jake Allen (groin) and the usual suspects, defensive tackles Ryan Pickett (hamstring) and Justin Harrell (back).

Will Blackmon, who missed both of Friday's practices when the foot he broke last year flared up, started with Jarrett Bush at cornerback.

With Wells out, starting right guard Jason Spitz shifted to center and rookie Josh Sitton got the start at Spitz's spot. Daryn Colledge got the start ahead of Allen Barbre at left guard.

Extra points

— If a banner flies over a stadium and nobody sees it, was it really there? With fans sequestered in the concourse of Lambeau because of the frequent lightning that delayed the scrimmage, a plane flying over the stadium with a SaveBrett.net banner at 6:40, 6:46 and 6:52 p.m. was seen by literally dozens of the 56,600 fans expected to be in attendance.

— The scrimmage started with two kickoffs to test the coverage units. Crosby booted the first one 3 yards deep into the end zone. Taj Smith fielded the second kickoff from the 1.

— During the kickoff-return segment, Jackson and Blackmon were the No. 1 returners, with Michael Montgomery, Barbre and Jason Hunter forming the wedge. Blackmon almost broke his return the distance. On the second rep, Vernand Morency and Patrick Lee were the returners, with Orrin Thompson, Sitton and Jermichael Finley forming the wedge. Lee had a modest return of a short, bouncing kick.

Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly stood out for the No. 1 defensive line. Jenkins had a sack, a batted ball and buried running back Noah Heron in the backfield. Jolly dropped Herron twice for short gains.

— Tight end Tory Humphrey continued his inconsistent camp with a drop for the No. 2 offense. Top pick Jordy Nelson also had a drop for the No. 2s.

— Ryan had punts of 69 and 63 yards. The second was brought back 66 yards by rookie Brett Swain. Since this was a punt-coverage drill, you can bet special-teams coordinator Mike Stock will be chewing some butts. Stock will be consoled a bit by the play of Blackmon, who field a punt on the run and returned it about 60 yards inside the 10-yard line.

— The event was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. The players finally came out on the field at 7:40 p.m.

— Practice resumes at 2 p.m. Tuesday. The players will wear full pads. Oh, and No. 4 might be there.

Bill Huber writes for Packer Report. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com


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