Packers scramble after season-ending injuries

The Packers were dealt a big blow to their offense and a less significant one to their defense. Running back Ryan Grant and former first-round defensive tackle Justin Harrell were both placed on injured reserve.

The Green Bay Packers are turning their running game over to Brandon Jackson with Ryan Grant being placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

Grant suffered an ankle injury during Sunday's season-opening victory over Philadelphia. Defensive lineman Justin Harrell was also placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL in his left knee while blocking on a field-goal attempt.

The Packers signed undrafted rookie running back Dimitri Nance off Atlanta's practice squad and re-signed defensive lineman Jarius Wynn.

Jackson took over when Grant was injured Sunday and rushed for 63 yards on 18 carries. But he has never been a featured back in the NFL, with just three starts during his four-year career, all coming at the start of the 2007 season before he suffered a shin injury.

He'll have to step up as the bell cow back, as Nance is the only other halfback currently on the roster. The other running backs are fullbacks Korey Hall, John Kuhn and Quinn Johnson.

"When you lose a running back of Ryan's caliber, it's a big loss," said Packers general manager Ted Thompson. "But this is something we have to deal with and move forward from as a team. We have confidence that our other players will step up and meet the challenge of these losses."

Coach Mike McCarthy praised Jackson's work during the offseason, and in April said his "blitz pickup was as good as I've seen since Marcus Allen in the early '90s."

On the flip side, Jackson has never been considered a featured back because he lacks explosiveness and breakaway speed. Then again, those have always been knocks against Grant, as well. Jackson entered the season with 626 career rushing yards.

An undrafted rookie out of Arizona State, Nance rushed for 795 yards and six touchdowns last season while leading the Sun Devils in rushing for the second consecutive year.

Harrell's injury could mean the end of the line for the former first-round pick in Green Bay. He has played in only one game the past two years, missing last season with chronic back trouble.

"Justin has had a tough go from a medical standpoint," McCarthy said. "I've seen players in this league sometimes have injuries in bunches, and then they're able to overcome them and go on to have a good career, and I was hoping Justin would fall into that category. And, now, he has another hurdle that he has to get over."

Harrell has played in only 14 games since coming into the league as the No. 16 overall draft pick in 2007 out of Tennessee. He is signed through 2012, but his days in Green Bay could be numbered.

Harrell's injury left the Packers with just three defensive linemen the rest of the game Sunday since they activated only four. They moved to re-sign Wynn, a sixth-round pick in 2009 who played in 11 games as a rookie but was released during final roster cuts this year.

"These are unfortunate injuries for our team," said Thompson, "but we all know football is a tough game.

"It's difficult when you lose players to injury. We felt like Justin was going to make a contribution to our team. The timing of his injury and the way it occurred was unfortunate."

Viking Update Top Stories