Thrown into the fire

Ryan Grant, who did not carry the ball in the preseason, will be a central figure on Monday against a Minnesota defense with a long memory.

The Minnesota Vikings led the NFL in run defense last season, yielding a paltry 74.1 yards per game on the ground.

The Vikings allowed just one player to rush for 100 yards: the Packers' Ryan Grant, who rumbled for 119 yards and his first career touchdown in a 34-0 drubbing on Nov. 11 at Lambeau Field.

Grant certainly will be a focal point during Monday night's Week 1 showdown at Lambeau. Grant hasn't carried the ball since the NFC championship game because of a hamstring that held him out for much of training camp. The Packers need to establish Grant to take some of the heat off of Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings have long memories and, obviously, will want to knock around Grant.

"Grant was the only running back who had over 100 yards on us," new Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said. "So, all that stuff plays into a good rivalry, especially the fact that they went up there and lost, and Green Bay went on to have a phenomenal season. Anytime you get to play a team the next year that you lost to the year before, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth for a whole year and you can't wait to wash it out."

Allen wasn't here for that game, but he knows what Grant has to offer. It was six days after Grant burst onto the scene against the Denver Broncos last season that the Packers rolled into Kansas City. Grant was held to 55 yards in the Packers' victory over the Chiefs. Still, Allen came away impressed with Grant after watching the back on film leading to the game and then playing against him.

"Last year, with him just kind of bursting onto the scene the way he did, that's the toughest thing to do is to defend against kind of an unknown giant," Allen said in a conference call with Packers reporters on Thursday. "Hats off to him. He had a heck of a year. He's a very talented running back. But teams are obviously going to gear up for him this year."

Now, though, the rest of the league has had an offseason to figure out what makes Grant click.

"It's always nice once you get some film on somebody, because you can see some tendencies," Allen said. "You can start breaking them down, their running styles and how they've had success and what kind of runner they are."

Allen, used to preparing to stop the Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson twice per season, tries to separate the name from what he's seeing on film. It's an interesting take, and one no doubt the Packers use while studying the Vikings' Adrian Peterson.

"You always watch tape on him, but you never let somebody become bigger than who they are," Allen said. "If you start playing against their name, then the focus is going off of the overall realm of the game."

Grant didn't carry the ball in the preseason, then missed practices on Tuesday and Friday, because of the hamstring. How he fares against a vaunted Vikings defense will be a central theme on Monday.

"We've seen it from him the last eight games from last year, this preseason when he has practiced," Rodgers said. "He's an elite running back. It's going to be our job — and it's a tough job this week, with the Williams guys (defensive tackles Pat and Kevin Williams), and Allen and (Ray) Edwards and the linebacking group — to be able to open up holes and run the ball. It's important for our game plan, and any time you're playing a team that's No. 1 against the run, you've got to be able to make them bring that extra guy down in the box. So, we're going to have to be effective running the ball this week.

Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com

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