"Hamstring" might as well be a four-letter word for Ryan Grant.
"I don't even think about the hamstring anymore, man," Grant said on Thursday following the Packers' second practice of organized team activities. "The hamstring is done. That was last year. My focus this year is — it's a nonissue right now."
Last year, Grant relegated himself to spectator during offseason practices and missed more than a week of training camp before getting the lucrative contract he felt he deserved after rushing for a whopping 5.1 yards per rush in his out-of-nowhere 2007.
Not long after signing that four-year, $20 million deal, Grant injured a hamstring in practice. The impact was noticeable on the field and on paper.
Grant was left without the burst that allowed him to rack up 11 runs of 20 yards or longer in 2007. In fact, after his 57-yard rumble that helped seal the Week 1 victory over Minnesota, Grant was held without a run of longer than 17 yards for more than two months.
The critics who thought the Packers overpaid for a player with just nine regular-season games of experience as a featured ball-carrier can point to Grant's drop-off in production last season. While Grant rushed for 1,203 yards — good for ninth in the NFL — his average plummeted to 3.9 yards per attempt.
"Some good things, some bad things," Grant said when asked what he saw from reviewing tapes of last season's games. "For me, inconsistency. The way I want to run, there sometimes was a lack of explosion. I didn't break as many long runs, which is what I do. I think (the hamstring) contributed to me not being explosive."
Before writing off Grant as a one-year wonder, it's instructive to break his season into halves.
During the first seven games, Grant carried the ball 137 times for 464 yards and one touchdown. That works out to 19.6 carries per game, 66.3 yards per game and a little less than 3.4 yards per attempt. He didn't have a 20-yard run in six consecutive games.
"Until you're out there, if you've ever played with a bad hamstring, it's hard to explain how it is," Grant said, acknowledging that his numbers were "much better" in the second half of the season.
Much better, indeed. After the bye, Grant carried the ball 175 times for 739 yards and three touchdowns in the final nine games. That works out to 19.4 carries per game, 82.1 yards per game and a little more than 4.2 yards per attempt. He tallied four runs of 20 yards or longer. He also had 14 of his 18 receptions and 108 of his 116 receiving yards after the bye.
In all, he got the ball on 83.4 percent of the running backs' carries, making him one of the NFL's rare workhorses.
And for all of the perceived problems the Packers' run game encountered last season, the numbers don't lie. In 2007, the Packers ranked 21st in the NFL with 1,597 rushing yards. In 2008, they ranked 17th with 1,803 yards. In both seasons, they averaged 4.1 yards per attempt.
"That's pretty good to do some of the things that we did. Of course, we want to do more," Grant said, citing red-zone production and finishing off drives.
With the hamstring injury behind him, Grant is preparing to bounce back personally and help the team bounce back from a 6-10 season. When he watches the film, he too often sees himself unable to break the initial tackle or the last line of defense. High knees and attacking the safety are what he did better in 2007 than 2008.
"It's about performing at a higher level than my '07 form," he said. "The highest level to help this team win."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.