Packers need Grant and Starks in 2011

NEW ORLEANS -- I got an opportunity to catch up Monday afternoon with Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, and the plan is to sprinkle their comments on a variety of issues into the blog over the coming days and weeks. One topic I wanted to hit right away is your continuing questions about the future of the Packers' offensive backfield.


GrantGrantThe postseason emergence of James Starks has caused some of you to question whether or not veteran Ryan Grant will return in 2011. I know where you're coming from. NFL teams routinely look to replace older players with younger players, especially at high-impact positions like running back. And it's only fair to remind you that Grant is scheduled to earn $5.25 million next season, presuming he returns from an ankle injury and plays in 16 games.

But after asking McCarthy about it Monday, I got no sense that the Packers are planning anything other than to use both players in their 2011 backfield. McCarthy said Grant looked "great" and "light" the last time he saw him before the lockout, and said: "I look at him to make a full recovery."

McCarthy added: "James is still a young player. Trust me, I'm very excited about James. There's no question the impact he made on our football team. [But] if you look at history, you look at our history, running back is a position that you really don't have enough of. We play in the elements. Winning games in December and January outdoors, it's a big factor. We'll definitely make a conscious effort to always improve our running game."

Unless they suddenly take to the free-agent market, I can't imagine a scenario in which the Packers could substantively improve their running game in 2011 while parting ways with Grant. I suppose anything could happen, but at this point there is no indication it's on the horizon.