Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant is simply happy to have a job. He's been out of football all season except for a short stint with Washington. File/Press-Gazette Media
Packers career rushing leaders
1. Ahman Green (2000-06, 2009), 8,322.
2. Jim Taylor (1958-66), 8,207.
3. John Brockington (1971-77), 5,024.
4. Tony Canadeo (1941-44, 1946-52), 4,197.
5. Ryan Grant (2007-12), 4,016.
Ryan Grant received a standing ovation upon his return to the Green Bay Packers on Wednesday.
Itís been 11 months since Grant, the teamís No. 5 all-time leading rusher, suited up for the Packers. But his teammates havenít forgotten him and offered a heroís welcome as Grant descended the stairs to the gymnasium where the Packers were conducting a walk-through session.
ďI think that tells you what the locker room thinks of him,Ē Packers coach Mike McCarthy said.
Grant, who doesnít like to draw attention to himself, wondered whether the cheers were made in jest, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers insisted they were genuine.
ďIím excited to have him back,Ē Rodgers said. ďSo for me, and I donít know if Iím the one that started the clap or not, but mine was all about respect and just excited to see him walk down the steps.Ē
Grant rushed for 4,016 yards in five years with the Packers (2007-11) and was a positive influence in the locker room.
But the Packers decided not to bring him back after last season, when he split halfback duties with James Starks.
Thatís what often happens to NFL running backs in Grantís age bracket. They are treated like they have a contagious disease and are usually put out to pasture.
The Packers finally called Grant this week and signed him to a contract because they were desperate for a healthy body after injuries toppled Cedric Benson, Starks and Johnny White.
Grant, who will turn 30 on Sunday, understands how the NFL works and why the Packers didnít reach out to him sooner.
ďI donít take things personal in this business,Ē he said.
ďThey didnít do anything wrong. From a business stance, I understood. You just move forward.Ē
Grant landed a short stint with the Washington Redskins earlier this season but played in only one game before getting cut. Other than that, heís been working out, playing a lot of chess, catching up on his reading, and waiting patiently for his phone to ring.
Grant acknowledged thereís a stigma in the NFL when it comes to running backs pushing 30.
ďI guess it comes, some of it, for good reason,Ē said Grant. ďNow fortunately for me, Iím not the average going-to-be 30-year-old back because I didnít do anything the first couple years. So I havenít taken that wear and tear. ... So I donít feel, I guess, how people think I should feel as a 30-year-old back.Ē
The Packers apparently didnít agree, or else they might have re-signed Grant during the offseason.
When asked whether age was the primary reason the Packers didnít bring Grant to training camp, McCarthy replied: ďThere are elements of our business that determine whether you make changes, when you do and when you donít.Ē
My loose translation of McCarthyís words: The train left the station without Grant because the NFL is a young manís game, especially at the running back position. And frankly, there was room for only one 29-year-old halfback on the team, and that was Benson.
General Manager Ted Thompson normally chooses younger players over older ones, although receiver Donald Driver is a notable exception this season.
Thompson also rarely brings back retreads unless injuries compel him to take action, as was the case in recent seasons with running back Ahman Green and tackle Mark Tauscher.
Grant has been added to that short list and presumably gives the Packers an insurance policy in case anyone else gets hurt.
Rodgers, who was mildly surprised the Packers didnít invite Grant to training camp, is happy to see his old teammate back in the fold.
ďIíve got to trust Ted and the philosophy heís done, itís worked for us,Ē Rodgers said. ďBut when youíve got a guy (Grant) thatís such a good locker room guy, you love having those guys around. I think that was the only maybe little surprise. I donít know how much that was taken into account, his presence, but weíre glad heís back.Ē
On his first day back, Grant hadnít been assigned a spot in the Packersí main locker room, but he wasnít complaining. At his age, in this young manís game, heís just happy to have a job.
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