We've mentioned but not obsessed over the possibility of a training camp competition for the Green Bay Packers' starting tailback job. Our general assumption is that veteran Ryan Grant would resume his role as the team's primary runner, with the likely tweak of a true(er) rotation with a deep list of backups headed by James Starks.
StarksGrantGrant appears to be of the same mindset, but he said all the right things during a recent interview with WSSP-1250. Here is how Grant described the situation, as transcribed by sportsradiointerviews.com:
On keeping his starting role
Ryan Grant: "I would think so. I don't know. From what I've heard, that's the conversation that was told to me. ... I was told that by [former running backs coach Edgar Bennett], initially. Jerry [Fontenot, the new position coach] didn't tell me that anything changed. Jerry told me that, as of right now, I'm still the leader of the backfield and the expectations won't change. ... I do believe there will be competition, which is fine. I'm all for that."
On whether he wants to start
RG: "Of course. Why would you not want to? Who doesn't want that? But I do want to win, more importantly. And I do feel like what I bring to the table and what I do on the field is very direct to me. ... I'm looking forward to whatever happens regarding all that and I'm just going to take care of what I can."
On if he was asked to be a backup
RG: "If it was in the best interest of the team, I'm all for it."
Everything is contingent on Grant returning in full health from an ankle injury that cost him 15 regular-season games and all of the postseason in 2010. But it would be easy for coach Mike McCarthy to keep Grant in a nominal starting role. What will be more interesting, however, is the extent to which McCarthy spreads carries between Grant, Starks, and rookies Randall Cobb and Alex Green. McCarthy might also have to factor in veterans John Kuhn and Brandon Jackson, who are pending free agents but could re-sign.
Grant was the Packers' unquestioned starter during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. McCarthy handed him the ball 312 times in 2008 and 282 in 2009. No other running back got more than 45 carries in either of those seasons. You would think those numbers will move closer together in 2011. How much closer? That will be the interesting part.