Green Bay Packers running back James Starks suffered a knee injury in the Minnesota Vikings game that threatens to be season-ending. No, no, don’t get confused, this is not the same Green Bay Packers running back who suffered a season-ending injury earlier this season–that was Cedric Benson. The news of Starks’ injury is somewhat surprising since it wasn’t mentioned in Monday’s injury report, but also completely unsurprising because Starks should really change his name so that “Fragile – Handle With Care” shows up on the back of his jersey.
The Packers have addressed this loss by reportedly signing former Green Bay running back Ryan Grant, who has struggled to find work since the Packers let him walk in the offseason.
Grant suffered a season-ending ankle injury (hmmm, there seems to be a pattern with Packers running backs…) in the 2010 season opener and followed it up with a disappointing 2011 season that saw him play a much-reduced role. The good news is that he’ll likely be in shape since he has been working out for teams throughout the season as he has tried to find a home.
With his 30th birthday coming up this week, Grant is no spring chicken, but doesn’t have a huge number of miles on him. He has twice missed (almost) entire seasons. In addition to missing all but one game in 2010, he also suffered a freak arm injury after falling through a glass table while with the New York Giants in 2006. Though you don’t love a guy to have as much of an injury history as Grant has, the flip side is that it means there’s been less wear and tear on him.
It’s also nice to have back a guy who has played for this team and in this system for five years. He should fit back in the scheme nicely. Presumably, he’ll be splitting carries with Alex Green until one of them makes a strong enough on-field case to become the primary runner.
Grant has always been popular with his teammates, too. Coach Mike McCarthy said today that Grant received a standing ovation when he walked into the gym (awww).
Now, there’s a reason the Packers let him go in free agency. There’s a reason that the Washington Redskins cut him less than a month after signing him as insurance when their own starter went down. There’s a reason none of the other teams that saw him workout chose to sign him.
But I have long been a Grant apologist. I don’t care what Green Bay fans say, I like the guy. I don’t care if I’m the only one. I like his attitude. I like his work ethic. I don’t always love the production on the field, but I think he can be counted on. He’s not a flashy runner, but he gets ugly, necessary yards for the Packers. He’s certainly not the fastest runner, but does have burst in the open field.
One thing he definitely needs to work on–and something that earned him the ire of fans–is his yards after contact. Too often, Grant goes down at the hands of the first tackler he meets. Considering the run troubles the Packers have had this year, I don’t expect running lanes to suddenly open up like the Red Sea, so Grant will have to earn his yards.
I’m excited to have Ryan Grant back in Packer Land. I don’t think anyone will be confusing him with Adrian Peterson anytime soon, but he meets the Packers’ needs, especially at the moment. This is a smart move for both sides and I hope we all get to see Grant in action on Sunday.