Ryan Grant apparently sustained the same kind of ankle and leg injuries on Sunday that Dorsey Levens did in Week 1 of the 1998 season.
Back then, Levens severely sprained his ankle, which caused a fracture in his fibula. He had a screw inserted to immobilize the ankle and returned after missing 10 weeks. Grant is expected to have a similar procedure after his right ankle and leg were injured in Sunday’s season-opening victory at Philadelphia.
This time, the Green Bay Packers decided they couldn’t wait for their starting running back to return. General Manager Ted Thompson on Tuesday placed Grant on season-ending injured reserve and signed rookie Dimitri Nance off the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad to take Grant’s place on the roster. Nance is expected to back up new starter Brandon Jackson.
Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer – who not only reports on the NFL but helps train players, including Grant – first reported the severity of Grant’s injury on Tuesday afternoon, about 24 hours after it was believed to be a week-to-week injury.
According to Grant, who posted comments via his Twitter account, he discussed with Thompson the possibility of remaining on the roster while he recovered from his injury.
“There was a chance with surgery that I come back this season,” Grant wrote. “But I would miss too many weeks and put the team in a bind roster wise.”
The Packers went into the season with only two true halfbacks, Grant and Jackson. They kept three fullbacks and one of them, John Kuhn, was the emergency third halfback.
After Sunday’s game, Grant said his ankle was swollen but didn’t think the injury was serious. However, tests showed he sustained damage to a ligament in his ankle.
“It was more severe than initially thought during the game,” Grant tweeted. “I just have to move forward and get right. Anyone who knows me understands that my spirits will stay high (and) I will return even better, strong. That’s how I operate. But know that nothing has changed from the Pack’s goal this year. The whole backfield will step up. That’s guaranteed.”
Grant, 27, has been the Packers’ top running back since the second half of the 2007 season. He rushed for 956 yards in 15 games (seven starts) in his first season after coming over from the New York Giants in a cut-day trade for a sixth-round pick. He rushed for 1,203 yards in 2008 and 1,253 yards last season. He played in 48 straight games, including Sunday’s season opener at Philadelphia. The only game he didn’t play in since arriving in Green Bay was the 2007 opener, just a week after the trade.
In 2008, he was slowed by a hamstring injury shortly after he signed a four-year contract. His base salary for 2010 is $4.5 million, which includes a $1.5 million escalator from his 2009 performance.
To replace Grant on the roster, the Packers picked the 5-foot-10, 219-pound Nance from the Falcons. Nance arrived in Green Bay early Tuesday and spent the day working with running backs coach Edgar Bennett to get up to speed on the Packers’ playbook, but it wasn’t known whether he will play in Sunday’s home opener against Buffalo. Nance signed with Atlanta as an undrafted free agent from Arizona State, where he led his team in rushing his last two seasons.
Nance rushed for 51 yards on 21 carries (a 2.4-yard average) and scored two touchdowns in the preseason for the Falcons. A source said the Falcons tried to convince Nance to stay in Atlanta. He is the only other true halfback besides Jackson on the Packers active roster, but they do have James Johnson on their practice squad and James Starks on the physically unable to perform list. Johnson was signed before Week 1 after spending time with Cincinnati and Minnesota the last two seasons. Starks, a rookie sixth-round pick, has been out since June because of a hamstring injury. He is eligible to return in Week 7.
Just because Thompson went with Nance doesn’t mean he won’t continue to explore other options. The trade deadline isn’t until Oct. 19, and he could make a deal for a back like Marshawn Lynch, who the Bills are reportedly willing to give up for a mid-round draft pick.
As expected, the Packers on Tuesday also placed defensive end Justin Harrell (knee) on injured reserve and re-signed second-year defensive end Jarius Wynn, who played in 11 games last season but was released at the end of training camp. Harrell tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while blocking on the field-goal unit against the Eagles.
“These are unfortunate injuries for our team,” Thompson said in a statement. “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. When you lose a running back of Ryan’s caliber, it’s a big loss. But this is something we have to deal with and move forward from as a team.”
Odds and ends: Kicker Mason Crosby will receive the NFC’s special teams player of the week award today. Crosby set a franchise record against the Eagles when he made a 56-yard field goal. … Linebacker Robert Francois was released from the practice squad on Tuesday, according to a source, but no replacement has been named.