Summer Sprints Pay for Grant

You saw Ryan Grant run for 137 yards and two touchdowns as Green Bay beat Chicago 21-14 on Sunday. Publisher Bill Huber watched all of the hard work Grant put in throughout training camp that made this day possible.

There was Ryan Grant, the Packers' unquestioned, undisputed featured halfback. There would be no dogging it during training camp. No matter how hot. No matter how the legs felt. No matter that Brandon Jackson and DeShawn Wynn had about as much chance of unseating him as Brian Brohm had of unseating Aaron Rodgers. No matter that he could ease off the throttle just a little bit with a grueling 16-game season looming.

But Ryan Grant doesn't know the meaning of taking it easy.

Grant is the Packers' workaholic, an ethic no doubt driven by his road to the NFL. The undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame spent his rookie season on the Giants' practice squad, then missed all of the 2006 season on their non-football injury list after a freak injury to his hand. He got his chance with the Packers in 2007, when Wynn was injured and Jackson was unproductive. Grant took the starting job and ran with it – literally, with a whopping 11 carries of 20-plus yards in nine starts, followed by a record-setting performance against Seattle in the playoffs.

The multimillion-dollar contract that was his reward didn't go to his head. Grant keeps himself in impeccable physical condition, so it's not like he needed those daily sprints through his own defense to get himself into shape. But there he was, day after day, play after play, taking the ball and running full-bore for 40 or 50 yards. Never mind that the other running backs didn't run that hard for half of that distance. When Grant would disappear into a blob of bodies, the whistle would blow. While his teammates would saunter back to the huddle, there would be No. 25 streaking down the field, scoring imaginary touchdown after imaginary touchdown.

All in anticipation of a play like this one.

A decent percentage of Sunday's late-arriving crowd at Soldier Field hadn't arrived to its seats when Grant got the ball on the Packers' first snap from scrimmage, burst around left end and took off down the sideline. Finally, after carry after carry of hammering away for 2, 3 or 4 yards this season, the payoff for that summer of sweat was in sight. Those sprints were meant for one reason only: So when he'd break free in a game, he wouldn't get gassed and be caught from behind.

And nobody was catching Grant on this play. The 62-yard sprint was no imaginary touchdown. This was the real deal, and the Packers led 7-0 and were on their way to a fifth consecutive victory.

"It's finishing," Grant said when reminded of those steamy summer sprints. "You're never really satisfied. When you do that, the next thing I'm saying is, ‘I've got to do more, do it again.' That's how it goes. It's big for the offense, big to start a game like that."

For Grant, the NFL's most unappreciated 1,000-yard rusher, it was a flashback to 2007, when he broke runs with stunning regularity. Last year, after a 57-yard run in the opener against Minnesota, Grant had only one more run of longer than 22 yards. This season, Grant didn't have a run of longer than 17 yards in the first four games. But then there was a 22-yarder against Detroit. A 37-yarder against Cleveland. A 20-yarder against Tampa Bay. A 26-yarder against San Francisco.

It looked like Grant and the Packers' running game was finding its stride, but then Detroit and Baltimore held him to merely 102 yards on 38 carries the last two weeks. His longest run against the Ravens went for just 8 yards. More often than not, Grant looked like a guy who could turn a 2-yard run into, well, a 2-yard run.

Then like a bolt of lightning, there went Grant down the Bears' sideline. Jermichael Finley motioned alongside fellow tight end Donald Lee on the left side of the formation. Fullback John Kuhn took care of linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. Star linebacker Lance Briggs got stuck in traffic.

"The line did a great job," Grant said after surging into fifth place on the NFL's rushing list this season. Yes, fifth place. "Once Hunter ran over the top, John kind of pushed him out and Briggs kind of buried himself. I felt like I just had to run through arm tackles. There weren't any clean bodies so I just ran through."

Was he worried that he'd be caught by legendary ball-stripper Charles Tillman?

"I have confidence in what I've got," Grant said of his speed.

It's a confidence earned on the practice field. It's a tribute to a player who knows that nothing comes without going the extra mile. Or in his case, the extra 20 yards on a hot August afternoon.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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