One of the officials told Ryan Grant to keep running. So, he did.
Unfortunately for Grant, a replay review eliminated his 80-yard touchdown and took more than $1 million out of his pocket.
"That's the way the ball bounces," he said.
With a 106-yard performance in Sunday's victory over Detroit, Grant finished the season with 1,203 yards. Had that 80-yard dash not been trimmed to 21 yards, he would have finished with 1,262 yards. The four-year contract he signed early in training camp called for Grant to get a $1.5 million increase in his 2009 salary if he reached 1,250 yards. Instead, he'll have to settle for a $500,000 raise — making his salary $1.25 million — for surpassing 1,000 yards.
"I'm not playing for the money," a good-natured Grant said as the players emptied their lockers on Monday morning. "I'd be a lot happier if we were still playing ball right now."
In addition to the $1 million blow to his billfold, Grant missed out on a chance to earn a $500,000 incentive for ranking in the top five in the NFC in rushing. Grant finished sixth, 35 yards behind Chicago's Matt Forte. By finishing in the top 10 in the NFC, he pocketed $150,000.
Perhaps he would have reached one or both of those thresholds had the Packers not replaced him with DeShawn Wynn for the final series of the game. Wynn carried the ball five times for 18 yards to help the Packers run out the clock.
"No. I was not not happy," Grant said when asked if he was upset that he was replaced.
Grant's words didn't sound like mere lip service. He happily told reporters about the 80-yard touchdown run that wasn't, and he joked about a bet he lost with Wynn.
On the 80-yarder, Grant was tackled by Lions defensive back Leigh Bodden. Grant landed on top of Bodden, got up and sprinted to the end zone.
"I thought I rolled off the guy. In my mind, that's what I felt," Grant said. "As I'm rolling, I'm saying, ‘I'm not on the ground. I'm going to keep running.' I didn't hear the whistle. I kept running. I've been playing football a long time. I run through the whistle. I saw the ref running with me. ... He was like, ‘You're not down. Keep running.' I was like, ‘I didn't think I was down. I'm going to keep running.'"
A replay review, however, showed Grant's hip touched the ground, according to referee Ed Hochuli. Not only did it cost him a lot of money, but it also cost him a bet with Wynn on who would have the longest run of the game. Wynn's 73-yard touchdown — Green Bay's longest run of the season — gave the Packers an early 7-0 lead.
"I have to race DeShawn in the 40 because we have a little bet about who runs faster," Grant said. "There's no way DeShawn is going to beat me in the 40. He won our little agreement during the game about who was going to have the longest run of the game. He won it on a technicality on a replay. But, I'll give it to him. I owe him what I owe him."
Grant has reason for confidence after watching Wynn lumber the final yards of his run.
"Listen," Grant joked, "I was like, ‘We've got you on film getting gassed, buddy.' It was a great run. I was happy for him. That was definitely a team run. Everybody did their job. It was great up front. He hit it, but I said, ‘Listen, your first 30 was impressive, but after that, you started gauging.' No, I was happy for him. For DeShawn to be able to step up the way he did, he did a great job."
Grant, who said he didn't think his brief training camp holdout and the lack of a single preseason carry had a "major, major, major" impact on his season, said he should have rushed for 1,400 or 1,500 yards this season. Had he averaged closer to last year's 5.1 yards per carry than this year's 3.9, perhaps the Packers would have been closer to last year's 13-3 than this year's 6-10.
He takes no solace in the Packers coming so close to winning a lot more games.
"There's a lot of teams that might say they're that close," Grant said. "You have to get it done. Being close doesn't count. We're not in the game where you get any kind of love or support for being close. You win or you lose."
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grant loses money, not humor
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