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Ryan Grant Sees Opportunity, Signs With Redskins Over Bears

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

(Originally posted 9/26/12, 11:36 a.m.; Updated 9/26/12, 5:43 p.m.)

ASHBURN – Ryan Grant had just finished a workout for the Chicago Bears on Tuesday and was on his way to take a physical when he received a phone call from the Washington Redskins.

Grant

Three weeks of football had passed, and Grant, the primary running back in Green Bay over the last five years, hadn’t received a contract offer.

Within hours, he had two.

“I told the driver to turn around and take me to the airport,” Grant said Wednesday morning at Redskins Park. “I had to fly from O’Hare to here and got in at 12:15, 12:30 last night.”

Grant assessed the Bears’ situation at running back and sized up what the Redskins could offer. Knowing Washington was about to put Roy Helu on injured reserve primarily because of turf toe, a move that would end his season, Grant chose the offer from the Redskins.

“I felt like there was an opportunity, absolutely,” Grant said. “I know Chicago, but at the end of the day, I feel like it was a better fit here.”

Grant, an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame who spent his first two years with the New York Giants, made his debut with the Packers in 2007 and quickly entrenched himself as a powerful runner in Green Bay’s zone-blocking scheme.

He rushed for 1,203 yards and four touchdowns in 2008 and followed up with 1,253 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009, but that success came to a sudden halt when he tore a ligament in his right ankle in the first game of the 2010 season.

It was a tough year for Grant, who was placed on injured reserve soon after and missed the Packers’ run to the Super Bowl, which they won. He returned last year and rushed for 559 yards and two touchdowns, but he shared time with James Starks and was not offered another contract.

The Redskins had been in contact with Grant throughout training camp but never extended him a deal. That call finally came Tuesday.

“You could see when he was at Green Bay – you could see his running style,” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said. “I think he fits with what we do. You know, he’s big and he’s fast and he’s got some experience. He’s a very sharp kid.”

When the Redskins released Tim Hightower on Aug. 31 as rosters were finalized, they told the running back he would be the first player they’d call if they needed help at his position. Shanahan said the team did that, but Hightower told them he was planning to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee – the same one in which he tore the ACL last season. Grant was next on their list.

“At this time of year, you need guys that have a little bit of experience,” Shanahan said.

Helu, the Redskins’ leading rusher last season, has battled a variety of injuries since training camp began. He missed portions of the preseason with tendinitis in both of his Achilles and said he sustained turf toe early in the season opener at New Orleans.

The best recommendation, Helu said, was to take some time to rest the injuries. He had turf toe in his right foot at the end of last season and it required nearly three months to heal properly, and any estimate on a return this year would have been premature at best.

“As early as it was this year, the damage would have been up there if I kept going,” Helu said.

Rookie Alfred Morris has been the Redskins’ primary ballcarrier through the first three games and is third in the league in rushing with 263 yards and three touchdowns. Evan Royster, who closed last season with a pair of 100-yard games, has carried the ball five times for 35 yards, but he sustained a sprained PCL in his right knee against Cincinnati and was limited at practice on Wednesday.

That’s the situation Grant saw when he took the Redskins’ offer late Tuesday. That’s what caused him to turn the car around and head from Chicago to Washington.

He went through practice Wednesday afternoon with an eye on Sunday – and a better view of the action than he’s had in the previous three weeks.

“I don’t expect it will take me too long,” Grant said. “I feel like I’m in good shape and you know, we’ll try to get back in the swing of things.”

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