Ryan Grant spent 5 of his 7 years of service in the NFL as a member of the green and gold and managed to put together a very nice career in Green Bay. He is the fifth all time leading rusher in franchise history, and is 11th in career touchdowns as a Packer. He was a Pro Bowl running back, and more importantly a Super Bowl Champion running back. Grant is remembered for a lot of great seasons in Green Bay, and was a huge part of a powerful offense.
I had the chance to catch up with Ryan and get his thoughts on the current team, Brett vs. Aaron, his thoughts on the recent protests in the NFL, and much more.
Stewart: Do you still follow the Packers or keep up with the team at all?
Grant: Yeah for the most part. I’m not going to say I actively follow them, but fans keep me up with things on social media. It’s really easy now if i want to find out what’s going on.
Stewart: With the offense having patches of disconnect recently, what have been your thoughts on that?
Grant: Well I didn’t watch their first game, but i’m close with Aaron Nagler so i talk to him about it. But I saw the second game, and parts of the third. You know there’s always such a high expectation in regard to the offense. With Aaron, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and etc. For the past years, since 2007 there’s been such a high expectation offensively. Every year i was there, if there was any hiccup in the offense it was like “What’s going on? What’s wrong with it?” and stuff like that because there is so many playmakers. When you look at the fact that they’re not performing at the level that people expect, people always tend to panic or whatever it may be. I definitely don’t think there is any reason to panic with this offense. There’s so many playmakers i think they can do a lot of things. Like anything early in the season, you start to see some holes or certain things where guys need to step up, or adjustments that need to be made. Anybody can make them. Aaron can make them and i think Mike will do a good job across the board of finding the solution to put guys in the best position to win. So i’m not worried about it. They had a really great first half versus Detroit. I guess they came out a little sluggish in the second half, but you’re going to see it. There is going to be up games, and there is going to be down games. The other guys get paid as well. You want to see improvement, you want to see a rise in the performance and the mental mistakes not being made. So trust me, i think the offense will hit on all cylinders at some point.
Stewart: Yeah, I agree. I think a lot of people were overreacting after that second game. They were playing one of the best defenses in the league in Minnesota.
Grant: Yeah, Minnesota is great. That defensive line has always been really strong and solid. They know how to get pressure and it was clear they were doing things to get Aaron a little flustered. At the end of the day, they’ll adjust. They’ll find a way to put points up on the board. You know, as a running back i always want them to run the ball a little more. (laughs) Put a little more emphasis on that run game. You got that big guy back there that can do some damage, so give him the ball. They’ll work it out. Mike does a good job of doing that.
Stewart: Speaking of the run game, what did you think of the Josh Sitton situation? As a running back, how does that affect how you read the line or attack on a run play?
Grant: Well I don’t really know too much about the Josh Sitton release. I know it was definitely unexpected, but I don’t know about the comments and reasons why for that. But it happens and you gotta move forward. Josh has been the real deal since he’s been there. He was one of those main guys that you counted on from the line, especially on the interior. So to not have him, it definitely changes things, but like anything, you want the young guys to step up and as a running back you gotta trust those guys. If it was me, I would have a conversation with them and let them know we got a new face on board, it’s all good. Lets work together and lets help each other out, communicating and let’s go from there. They’ll be fine like i said, they’ll work it out. Obviously the number one priority is protecting Aaron and they’re going to make sure, whether its rotating guys, or finding a guy that can step in there to get the job done.
Stewart: What teams do you think are possible Super Bowl favorites so far early in the season?
Grant: I don’t know man, it’s so early it almost doesn’t even mean anything yet. Theres the Patriots, I think everybody would probably say that just because they know how to get it done every year. Of course the Packers are a team that can contend every year. From what i’ve seen, Philadelphia is really interesting with Wentz at the helm. The Panthers, even though they’re sluggish right now, the Broncos are still playing top notch ball. I like the Raiders. I think they’re only going to get better through the years. They’ve got some young talent. Seattle is always tough. There’s a lot of good teams out there, and because it’s still early, football is only going to get better as the season goes on. I wouldn’t hold on too much to the way teams are playing right now.
Stewart: The big talk around the world right now is obviously kneeling during the National Anthem, stemming from Colin Kaepernick starting that. What are your thoughts on that protest? Do you support it and is that something you might have done in your playing days?
Grant: Well first of all, I absolutely support it. If awareness would have been brought upon because of it, I probably definitely would have been involved. When i was playing, the anthem itself wasn’t important enough for me to stand or kneel. I think a lot of people get confused as to why most athletes and people stand for the anthem. Its ritual. You could that’s unfortunately, or fortunately whatever it may be, that’s just the fact of the matter. We do most things in life because of ritual, not because people really care or are trying to show support. It’s the song before they play the game. So guys do whatever, they’re like “Hey man, you gotta stand for the anthem.” They’re not even really paying that much attention. They’re usually saying their own personal prayers, or thinking about what they have to do game plan wise. They’re not really thinking about the military or anything like that.
So I definitely support Kaepernick and everyone else that protests. But my thing is, it’s not about the protest, it’s about the message that he’s protesting about. And that’s what is important and what people lose sight on. But people need to understand that your patriotism, loyalty or really any connection you have towards anything, especially a nation, is usually based on the experience you’ve had in that particular nation. So if you have a certain group of people, like people of color or whatever it may be, that are having a particular experience here in America, that’s probably where it’s going to affect their loyalty, or how they show respect to someone when they believe they are being disrespected from a human rights stance. Then of course they’re going to display a certain amount of respect, a certain amount of angst, or they’re going to go against them. They’re saying “Hey man, unjust things are being done to me. So because of that, i’m going to say this is not right.”
This conversation is not a new thing. It’s a conversation that’s been had by my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and now people want to say “That’s not the right time to protest!” There’s never a right time to not protest. If there is a right time, then it’s probably not effective. The idea behind a protest is you do it when people don’t want you to do it. Anybody that did any sort of protest that had significance, and i’m not even necessarily a fan of protesting, but it was done when people told you not to protest. Its simple. I think a lot of times it’s ignorance and lack of awareness as to why people are up in arms with what he did. It’s not threatening by no means. A lot of times when people have issues with it, i see it as racism. I’m not saying that they’re bad people, in this nation, racism is very big, it’s built, and its legitimate. A lot of it is done unconsciously, so they don’t even know that. If a system is racist, then of course the product of the system is racist. And it doesn’t mean that they are bad people, or the individuals are bad by no means. It just means there are things that go along with it that are not right. So i do believe a lot of the issues that are coming with it, are stemming from racism. But we’ll see how it goes, clearly what he’s done has had an impact. It has started the conversation in so many different ways. You can say what you want, but point taken. I don’t know if it’ll achieve what he wanted to achieve, but at least he’s started a lot of conversation and has changed a lot of people. Which is always a good thing.
Stewart: I think you definitely make a great point about it being a ritual. You never really think about how many people sit there and talk, or go on their phones during the anthem at a game.
Grant: Yeah think about it, how many times have you watched a football game. Do you stand for the anthem at home?
What happens is, people get so caught up in the mindset that you do this as a respect to the military, but actually none of us really do that. It might look like we do that, but a lot of people unfortunately just don’t care. It’s not a matter of disrespecting them, but my mind is on that game. If the league told us like they did years ago, we’re not going to be outside for the national anthem, nobody was contesting that. The reason why they weren’t contesting it was because they didn’t care. “Cool. we’re going to be in the locker room? Okay, we’re just going to be focusing on the game.” Just like in 2009, when they told us we’re going to be outside. Nobody said anything, they were just like “Cool. We’re going to be outside for the anthem now. Okay great” It’s literally the ritual. It’s the next part before the game starts. They could play a song by Beyonce. If that become the ritual, guys would be out there for it. It doesn’t make a difference, and I think at times we lose sight as to why people actually do things. And you become connected to this ideology as to why people do things, opposed to the literal reason of why we do things.
Being a former player, i can tell you that 90% of the guys are not thinking of the respect of the military service by no means. They’re focused on that game. Its cool to see those choppers and those fighter jets, its really cool. But that’s not where their head is at, its focusing on their craft and what they have to do. And to be honest, I don’t think the NFL actually cares. Because they got paid to bring us out. We were inside for so many years, and it was a marketing ploy to generate patriotism and go for that stance. So I think a lot of times where people are standing from, and where people take offense to certain things usually is from a place of just not knowing and they don’t understand. Because like anything, people fear what they don’t understand and a lot of times they get angry when they don’t understand. As opposed to someone saying “That’s crazy you would do that.” villainizing him and tearing him down right away for doing something instead of saying wait a minute, if this anthem is supposed to represent such a major thing, for him to be willing to tear his career apart from an image standpoint, and stand against so many people, this clearly has to be important to him. We could look at what he’s taking action on, but most people don’t want to do that, people are not listening to understand. They’re just listening to respond and they’ve already constructed this idea of what is, as opposed to listening and saying “You feel that way? Well let me hear your issue” So I think that’s the first thing, but it usually comes from ignorance and just not knowing. And i don’t mean that from a negative stance, it just means the ignorance is uninformed and to just not understand.
Stewart: So to change subjects, this past summer Brett Favre went into the Hall of Fame. What did you think of his speech, and just the idea of him finally getting in?
Grant: I didn’t see the whole speech, but i did see part of it and i thought it was wonderful. Im super fortunate to have been able to play with Brett, and especially in his last year with Green Bay. he helped me out a lot my first year out there. Of course it’s well deserved, and it’s about time. That guy is iconic and i’m fortunate to have been able to play with both Brett, and Aaron. You’re talking about two of the top quarterbacks in the history of the league. One who is one of the top quarterbacks, and the other who certainly will be. So there’s no complaints on my end. I appreciate what Brett did for me, and he deserves every accolade he has. I’m glad they reconciled on both ends.
Stewart: Do you have any good Favre stories from your days playing with him?
Grant: Oh man, there’s probably none that I can say that are PG. (laughs) But honestly, he’s a goofball. Favre’s a funny dude and he would keep it light, but also one of the most competitive people I have ever met. He would always make sure we were in good spirits and that the guys were laughing and having fun.
Stewart: Recently, Greg Jennings came out and said that he would rather have Aaron over Brett when it came to preparing for a game during the week. Do you agree or disagree with Greg?
Grant: I think that we were more involved with Aaron when it came to preparation and there was a lot more communication, and i think that plays a part in a lot of ways. We were part of Aaron’s development and growth. We came up with Aaron. I remember in 2008, in his first year Aaron grabbed me to the side and he told us “Listen, we need each other this year.” and i was like you’re absolutely right man. So right away, he recognized that we all had to be each others stepping stones. We always gotta help each other out and use each other to grow. So i think that absolutely from a communication standpoint and developing together, you definitely wanted to be with Aaron. But, when we were part of Brett’s career, we were at the end. Brett was on his way out, so i don’t know how much he was involved in the process of helping guys grow. And i’m not saying wrongfully, or rightfully, at the end of the day it’s just very different situations.
Stewart: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your years in Green Bay?
Grant: Yeah actually i’m still cool with a few different guys. I talk to Aaron, Kuhn right before he left, Starks. A few different other guys like Brian Engel, the athletic trainer. He’s my guy. So yeah I talk to a few guys here and there.
Stewart: Do you still have any sort of relationship still with the Packers? Do you see yourself going back for any appearances or possibly coaching?
Grant: Well not as a coach I can tell you that. I don’t want to coach. But i’m actually going back in October for the Thursday night Bears game. I’ll be back as the alumni and go chop it up with some season ticket holders. It’ll be a good chance to see some of the guys and stuff like that.
Stewart: Out of your entire career, do you have a favorite season or game that you remember more than another?
Grant: I have a few different games. There was a couple games against the Bears that were pretty memorable. Of course everybody wants to talk about the playoff game against Seattle. One of the most memorable games though was this shootout we had in Arizona in the wild card game. That was a hard game. We got beat in that game and we did think that we were the best team in that tournament. But clearly we didn’t get it done.
Stewart: What was the atmosphere and pressure like during the Super Bowl run? Also, what was it like coming back to Green Bay as the champs?
Grant: It was great. It was the best. Packer fans are rocking all the time. They’re pretty awesome. Being able to get it done, especially with all of the injuries we had that season, was pretty impressive to see how many guys stepped up and really did whatever it took to fill roles. It was magnificent.
Stewart: After your original run in Green Bay, you signed with Washington, but then came back after that. What was it like to be a part of a different organization and then to come back to Green Bay?
Grant: It was cool. It was very interesting because it was a very different situation coming back even though i knew everybody, they had already gotten into a groove as a team. So i kind of stepped in from the outside. I played the last four games and it was a nice situation to be a part of.
Stewart: As you look back on it, what did it mean to you to be able to say you played for the Packers?
Grant: It really means a lot. Im super fortunate to have played for them and i have been fortunate to have been able to play for some good organizations overall. Starting with college, and even in high school. But i will say from an organizational stance, the Packers from the top down are top notch people. The community, and all of the employees do everything they can to help the players and put them in the best position to win and you really don’t see that across the league. Its one of those things that i think a lot of guys take for granted, until they go somewhere else. But i recognized right away, this is something special. So i’m super grateful for everything they did.