It's just a scrimmage, but Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant can't wait to play in front of a crowd at Lambeau Field on Saturday night.
Grant spent much of last year's training camp on the sidelines, first because of a contract dispute and then because of a hamstring injury. He went on to have a so-so season and the Packers' running game suffered.
A healthy Grant has a full camp to prepare this year. He hopes to recapture the form he showed during a breakout 2007 season _ and the scrimmage is a good place to start.
"I'm definitely playing hard," Grant said Thursday. "Once they say live, you've got to go hard."
Grant arrived for the start of camp last weekend with a purpose. He is out to make amends for a 2008 season he called disappointing more because of the Packers' swoon to a 6-10 record after reaching the NFC title game the previous year than because of his own struggles.
Grant ran wild in the second half of the 2007 schedule, finishing with 956 yards and eight touchdowns. He then rushed for 201 yards _ a Packers postseason record _ and three touchdowns in an NFC divisional playoff rout of the Seattle Seahawks.
In a word, Grant was explosive for the Packers. But big runs were rare for Grant last year and he dropped from 5.1 yards per carry in 2007 to 3.9 yards last year. He became only the fourth player in club history to run for 1,200 yards (1,203), but the flair for breaking away from defenders was missing.
"Of course, any injury is going to impact performance on the field. It did," said Grant, referring to the hamstring he injured on his second day of practice.
Grant, who signed a four-year deal, said he doesn't think about last year. And having him on the field from Day 1 of training camp this year has been a positive for the Packers.
"I think Ryan has had a very solid camp," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's really our first time going through a full camp with Ryan.
"We get better every day. I talk about the philosophy to the offense, you need to be strong up the middle, and the only way to get strong up the middle is to make sure those guys practice every day. I'm talking about the center, two guards, the quarterback and the halfback."
Grant is optimistic the big gains will be more the norm than the exception this season. Before reporting for camp, he spent a week and a half in Florida working out with a group of NFL players, including Packers safety Nick Collins.
The focus of those drills for Grant?
"Explosion," he said.
NOTES: The Packers had at least three players drop out of practice Thursday night. Rookie LB Clay Matthews aggravated a hamstring injury. LB Jeremy Thompson and WR Ruvell Martin suffered groin injuries. CB Pat Lee, who had a back injury in the morning practice, and DT Justin Harrell (rest) were held out of the evening session. Amid speculation that the Packers have an interest in former Atlanta Falcons QB Michael Vick, several Green Bay players said Thursday they would welcome him to the team. "Another weapon gives you another option," Grant said. "If that happens, it happens." Vick is a free agent and has been conditionally reinstated to return to the NFL after completing a 23-month federal sentence for running a dogfighting ring. Packers GM Ted Thompson didn't rule out adding Vick to the team when he spoke to reporters Tuesday. McCarthy excused several veterans from the morning practice Thursday, including WR Donald Driver, DT Ryan Pickett, LB Aaron Kampman and CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson. All of them practiced Thursday night. LG Daryn Colledge resumed practicing after he suffered a thigh injury Monday. Notable players still sidelined Thursday were DT Johnny Jolly (ankle), RB Brandon Jackson (shoulder) and LB Nick Barnett, who remains on the physically unable to perform list.