Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Yes, the Green Bay Packers have focused this summer on transitioning to a new starting quarterback. (We have mentioned that a time or two on this blog). But an important facet of that transition was supposed to be having tailback Ryan Grant established as their every down running back.
The idea was that having a starter with some pedigree -- Grant nearly cracked the 1,000-yard barrier last season even after sitting mostly idle for the first six games -- would take some pressure off quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It would also help align the Packers offense more closely with what coach Mike McCarthy says his core values are: Power running and aggressive defense.
That plan has yet to develop, however. Grant held out the first week of training camp and has sat out the preseason because of a nagging hamstring injury. He missed practice again Thursday and, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, appears unlikely to play Friday at Denver.
McCarthy said Grant is getting close to returning to practice, but his summer already is a bust. There are plenty of established running backs who get minimal work during the preseason, but Grant's situation is a little different. He has done minimal football activities since the end of last season, sitting out offseason practices because of the contract situation and participating in only a handful of training camp practices because of the hamstring.
For those reasons, it's reasonable to start wondering how prepared Grant will be for the grind of a 16-game season. The Packers have depth on their roster -- Brandon Jackson, Vernand Morency and Noah Herron to name a few -- but Grant proved last season he is a step above them. It's a situation definitely worth monitoring as the regular season approaches.
Continuing our morning jog around the NFC North:
Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga apparently is fending off a challenge from free agent acquisition Brandon Chillar to remain the strong-side starter, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Chicago Bears defensive end Mark Anderson had minor surgery on his thumb but is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.
In part because of Anderson's injury, the Bears will continue using defensive tackle Israel Idonije at end.
Tatum Bell is losing a competition with Kevin Smith for the Detroit Lions' starting tailback job, but Smith told the Detroit News: "I have had a solid camp and hopefully it translates into a good year." (Bell had a lot more to say about former Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz, which we'll get to in a separate post a bit later).
Minnesota Vikings rookie linebacker Erin Henderson, the younger brother of Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, leads the team in preseason tackles (16) and has a good chance to make the 53-man roster, according to the Star Tribune.