Harris receives clearance
Cornerback expects to play after bye week
By TOM SILVERSTEINtsilverstein@journalsentinel.com
Posted: Oct. 21, 2008
Green Bay - For most of the Green Bay Packers, the bye week will be about lying around the house, enjoying some free time and resting their bodies.
That, however, is not Al Harris plan.
He did that lying around thing four weeks ago after tearing his spleen in a nasty collision with teammate A.J. Hawk and it wasnt much fun. He was told not to do anything of a physical nature for an entire week and it nearly drove him crazy.
Now nearly 100% healed, Harris plans to spend the bye week getting ready to play football again so hes ready for the Tennessee Titans Nov. 2.
I feel great, Harris said before exiting for the teams five-day leave. Im going to go at it hard. My whole thing is get back into football shape. Thats it, really. By the time the game comes around, Ill be totally healed.
Im cleared now. If we had a game this week, Id play.
There is some question about how quickly the Packers will return Harris to his starting right cornerback position. After missing four games, hell have some rust to shake off, but given how hard and physical he practices it probably wont take him too long to get back into the swing of things.
While he was gone, nickel back Tramon Williams played terrifically, picking off three passes and knocking down another three. In the last five games, dating to the Dallas contest during which Harris was injured, the Packers have given up six passing touchdowns. Only one was given up by Williams, who hasnt allowed one since giving up a 52-yard connection to Miles Austin against the Cowboys.
Whats more, the only other reception of 20 or more yards Williams has allowed since taking over the starting job was a 34-yard completion to Indianapolis Anthony Gonzalez on Sunday. He has committed just one coverage penalty during that time, a 5-yard illegal contact against the Colts.
I think Tramon did a great job, Harris said. I think he really came up big with us. Hes a good player; he was ready. Hes going to be a good player for a long time.
There doesnt seem to be any question that Harris will get his starting job back once he proves hes in shape because he still jams receivers at the line of scrimmage better than anyone on the team, and bump-and-run is a staple of coordinator Bob Sanders system.
Williams is smaller than Harris but he runs better, so there could be instances when the coaches use Williams to play man-to-man against a specific receiver. However, Harris has traditionally matched up against the other teams top threat and doesnt see that changing.
Im a matchup guy, Harris said. I would doubt (that) it (would happen), but if thats what they wanted to do. Hes played well. He probably gave up a couple of plays, but who doesnt give up a few plays? I think hes done a great job.
But were still in Green Bay and when it comes to matching up and playing man-to-man coverage, it starts and it stops here.
Cornerbacks coach Lionel Washington wasnt ready to declare anything about how things would be handled when Harris returns. In the Packers scheme, the third cornerback has played around 50% of the defensive snaps this season, so there is plenty of playing time to go around.
It will be up to Sanders to determine how the matchups go. For now, the Packers are happy they have an array of talent to play with.
Getting Al back is going to make us that much better, Washington said this week. Well be able to play more one-on-one coverage and do a lot more things with those other guys. It gives us a lot more options.
Harris doesnt anticipate any problems getting back into the swing of things. He said he was a little fearful when the injury first happened, but as time has gone by protecting himself hasnt been part of his mind-set.
Its likely he wont wear any extra padding when he returns. Mostly thats because the injury was the result of the force created internally when he collided with Hawk, not the result of a specific hit to the spleen area. The chances of him suffering a similar trauma are pretty slim and wearing a pad or flak jacket probably wouldnt do him that much good.
Your rib cage is protection enough for your spleen, Harris said. The nature of the injury was more from the shock of it. No ribs were broken.
It took Harris a week before he was allowed to lift any weights and more than three weeks before he was able to run. But last week, he took part in some individual drills with a weight jacket on and plans to step up the workouts this week.
When he gets back, he swears there will be no apprehension.
Thats not going to be the case, Harris said. I may be overly (physical). There may be a couple flags.