Thus far, Grant has dealt with a hamstring injury that has bothered him for more than a month and been a shell of himself. However, he practiced for the second straight day today and it appears that he has taken another step in overcoming the injury.
"This is the best I've felt, definitely," Grant was happy to report after practice. "I told some of the guys I don't feel it, and I don't think about it at practice. I actually came out of practice today saying there were some runs where I tried to get a little more."
That's encouraging progress and in the nick of time. As the Packers enter their fourth game of the season, they do so with a banged-up defensive secondary. On top of that, the Packers' defense is coming off a Monday night game in which it was on the field far more than the offense in battling the physical Dallas Cowboys. Many feel that the pass-happy Buccaneers will do everything possible to test the Packers' secondary. Throw in some of that good ol' Florida heat and humidity that is forecast daily in Tampa till about Thanksgiving, and the Packers should do everything possible to keep its defense off the field on Sunday.
This is where Grant can help the Packers. Though he hasn't carried the ball more than 15 times in any one game this season, the Packers must establish the run against the Bucs defense and play the ball control game as much as possible. It will be tempting for coach Mike McCarthy to pass against the Bucs, but McCarthy will have to discipline himself to keep the offensive attack run heavy. Normally a stingy defense, the Bucs are ranked 20th in the league against the run giving up 121.3 yards per game this season, so running the ball should be much easier than it was against the Cowboys. Of course, the Bucs are ranked 27th in the NFL against the pass, so McCarthy will be tempted to go to the air as well.
With three games under his belt, Grant says he is ready to take on a bigger role. The Packers probably won't have Kregg Lumpkin (hamstring) available, leaving Grant and Brandon Jackson as the only two running backs.
"I've got a good amount of reps and I'm feeling good," Grant said. "I'm not feeling sore afterwards, not feeling like I wore down. Each week is progress and I'm excited with how I feel today."
Tampa has always been a tough place for the Packers to beat the Bucs, but they can do it if Grant can pick up his game. He opened the season with a 92-yard night against Minnesota but has gone downhill from there. Grant has rushed for a total of 74 yards in the last two games combined and his longest run has been nine yards.
However, the Packers are 8-0 when Grant has 15 or more carries, so it's in the Packers' best interest to feed him the ball more on Sunday for the good of the defense and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
"It's encouraging to see Ryan Grant out there taking all his reps," said Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I think he's put together two solid practices. He needs reps just like everybody else. It's been great to have him healthy and feeling good the next day."
That's great for the Packers and a good sign for Sunday. The team needs Grant now more than ever.
Todd Korth writes for PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.