The biggest concern with newly signed halfback Ryan Grant isn’t conditioning but ball security.
Grant, signed this week because halfback James Starks will miss at least a few games because of a bruised knee, didn’t attend training camp with any team and was on an NFL roster for only four weeks earlier this season. That was with the Washington Redskins, and he had only one carry in the lone game he played.
But Grant figures to get some snaps and perhaps a few carries in his return to the Packers this week as Alex Green’s backup.
Alex Van Pelt, the Packers’ running backs coach, said he’s watched Grant closely during ball-security drills this week and that the veteran’s ball carriage was excellent. The main ball-security drills have a ball carrier run through a long gauntlet of players trying to punch and strip out the ball, or through a blaster machine that has as series of waist-high pads on heavy springs that resist the runner and hit the ball-carrying area. When the player clears the gauntlet, he runs at a blocking dummy and has to cut the opposite way that Van Pelt pushes it.
“I looked right at him as (Grant) came at me,” Van Pelt said. “(He held it) high and tight and second hand over it. It was clinic.”
Grant played for the Packers the previous five years, so learning any changes in terminology hasn’t been difficult.
“You obviously don’t want to throw him to the wolves,” Van Pelt said, “but I think he’s definitely ready to go, and his knowledge of the system, there’s nothing new for him. There’s some things he’s not quite familiar with as far as terminology that are new to everybody here. Those are the little things. But as far as running inside zone, outside zone, those are our lead plays, he knows how to do that. He’s been doing that his whole life.”
With Starks out for at least a few weeks and Cedric Benson on injured reserve for the rest of the season, Alex Green is the Packers’ primary halfback. But fullback John Kuhn is likely to see his share of snaps in one-back sets also, with perhaps Grant and No. 3 halfback DuJuan Harris getting some snaps as well.
“If we’re rolling and (Green) is carrying it and he’s hot, we’re going to keep feeding it,” Van Pelt. “Ultimately, statistically his best games probably are when he’s sharing reps, as far as average per carry, so we’d like to keep him in a management amount of carries in a game and not try to over work him.”