Ryan Grant traveled the country over the past month, taking one NFL workout after another, with the hope of getting his football career back on track.
Last week, that journey brought the sixth-year receiver to Green Bay, and of all the visits he’d taken, Grant was optimistic the Packers would be the team to finally end his jet-setting.
“I wanted to come here out of all the places I worked out at,” said Grant, who most recently was with Oakland. “Small town, I could really just focus on football. And this is a great organization, has history, a lot of great players have played here, and just the ‘G’ on the helmet seems special.”
After temporarily going their separate ways, the Packers called Grant back Wednesday after injuries to top three receivers Davante Adams (foot), Geronimo Allison (concussion/chest) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle/knee) left them thin at the position entering Sunday’s game with the Raiders.
Grant, 28, provides depth and versatility at a spot where the Packers could use both. A veteran of 80 NFL games, the 6-foot, 185-pound receiver has amassed 123 catches for 1,333 yards and seven touchdowns. More importantly, he has experience playing both the slot and splitting out wide.
Grant lined up outside on 494 of his 560 snaps with Indianapolis last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but also played extensively in the slot during his time with Washington. His most successful year in 2017 saw Grant split his reps evenly down the middle between reps inside and on the perimeter.
“I think if he can bring some ability to the slot, that really gives us another weapon there,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “Over the years, we have had big bodies from that spot. Jordy (Nelson) did it for years playing the slot receiver. Davante has done it before. Greg Jennings worked in the slot at times when he was here. So it doesn’t really matter the body type. It’s really about the production, and that certain player.”
While Rodgers isn’t overly familiar with Grant’s tape, the new Packers receiver has a history with Adams. The two worked out together this offseason due to a mutual connection, receivers coach Keith Williams.
Adams and Grant also were members of the same 2014 NFL Draft class in which Adams went in the second round (53rd overall) to Green Bay, while Grant was selected by Washington in the fifth (No. 142). Now, the two are a couple lockers away from one another.
“We have some of the same fundamentals in our game and working out with an All-Pro receiver is always positive,” Grant said. “It’s just good being around the wide receivers here and just to be part of this offense is good.”
Grant has had an interesting NFL run. In 2017, he enjoyed a career year with 45 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns with Washington. An unrestricted free agent after the season, Grant appeared to be on the verge of signing a lucrative deal with Baltimore before the Ravens failed him on his physical.
Grant insists he was healthy, a notion reflected by the fact he signed a one-year deal with the Colts the following week. He went on to start a career-high 10 games in 2018, recording 35 receptions for 334 yards and a touchdown.
He signed with Oakland in April and played two games with the Raiders this year before being cut Sept. 25. While he knows the next opponent on the schedule for the Packers are the Raiders Sunday, Grant doesn’t hold any ill will against his former team.
If anything, being back in his home state of Texas for a few weeks allowed Grant to reorganize and assess where he’s at.
“It was kind of weird, just being at home, watching football on Sunday instead of actually being on the field,” Grant said. “I was able to go home and hang out with my wife, get some things taken care of that needed to be taken care of and I’m just thankful and fortunate and grateful for this opportunity.”
The former Tulane standout smiled when acknowledging he’s often confused with the former Packers running back, who has the same name. Grant takes it in stride and sees it as possibly a good omen given the other Grant’s past success in Green Bay.
Grant comes from a system in Washington with many parallels to the offense Matt LaFleur runs in Green Bay. For that reason, Grant hopes to be in a position to contribute to the Packers’ offense – sooner, rather than later.
“I’m excited for the future,” Grant said. “I think the Green Bay Packers have a great future ahead of them. Obviously they’ve been winning football games and I don’t see any change in that here pretty soon. I’m excited for the opportunity and look forward to everything that the organization has to offer.”