Packers veteran Harris is anxious to return to action
GREEN BAY -- As desperately as Al Harris wants to play as soon as possible -- including Sunday, against the Indianapolis Colts at Lambeau Field -- the Packers veteran cornerback can't lie.
Out since Sept. 21 with a lacerated spleen suffered against the Dallas Cowboys in a collision with teammate A.J. Hawk, Harris' desire to return to action is in spite of an admitted fear that what could have been a career- and life-threatening injury could happen again.
"I'm still scared, right now. But the odds of it happening again are unlikely," Harris said. "I may be wrong. But I'm going to give it a shot once the doctors clear me."
That may not be this week, but it figures to be after the team's Week 8 bye, meaning Harris could be back on the field Nov. 1 at Tennessee, after missing only four games.
Although coach Mike McCarthy classified him as "doubtful" for Sunday, Harris did take part in practice on a limited basis Wednesday, working in the early-practice jog-through session and in individual drills.
"Al and I talked again at practice. He feels great. Mentally he feels he could play," McCarthy said. "We're just going to follow the direction of the doctors."
And their clearance cannot come soon enough for Harris, despite whatever reservations he may have. He'd never missed a regular-season game in his 11-year NFL career before the team's Sept. 28 game at Tampa Bay, and it was a struggle when he had to spend that first week following the injury at home doing nothing but convalescing.
Not that the time off didn't yield one dividend.
"I found a new restaurant in Green Bay, a really good spot - Urban Frog. Have you been there? It's good. I'd go there every day," Harris said. "So, it hasn't been total loss."
He was joking, we think. But all kidding aside, the good news for Harris is that his spleen was scanned Monday morning - a day after Harris missed his third consecutive game, the Packers' 27-17 victory at Seattle - and the tests showed "significant improvement."
"So obviously we are moving in the right direction," McCarthy said.
During the Packers' 27-16 loss to the Cowboys, Harris was initially thought to be suffering from cramps. Then, he found blood in his urine, which led to fears that the spleen had ruptured, which would have ended his season.
Instead, though Harris missed the Packers' game against the Buccaneers, snapping his streak of 175 straight games played (including playoffs), multiple doctors conferred and decided that Harris' injury wasn't severe enough to require surgery.
But it did require Harris to rest for seven days, something that didn't sit well with a guy who'd asked doctors to simply remove his spleen immediately after the injury because he thought it would allow him to play.
"The first week, I couldn't do anything. It was just rest. And I suck at that," said Harris, who'd last sat out a game in 1997, when he was on the Buccaneers' practice squad. "But I had to do it, so I did. I sat home and rested. I'm just thankful they didn't have to take my spleen out or anything like that."
Harris was cleared to do light workouts - small weights and cardio on the elliptical trainer - after that, which wasn't enough for him, either.
"It's been hard, not being able to prepare every week (for a game). You're so used to preparing and used to doing one thing every day, my whole day, I've had to literally make up a different schedule to keep my days (tolerable)," Harris said. "Because I've been having the same schedule for so long: Go to practice, workout, go home, eat, maybe get another workout in, study and then go to sleep."
Harris said he's been impressed with the way nickelback Tramon Williams has played in his stead - he's had an interception in each of his three starts in Harris' place - but said his return would give the Packers' defense a boost.
"I'm definitely anxious to get back out there. I think I can help," Harris said, singling out the play of Williams and veteran cornerback Charles Woodson, who continues to play with a broken toe on his right foot.
"The guys are doing a great job, but I'm anxious."
This is huge if he can come back. Young players tend to falter late in the season while seasoned vets only get better. Depth is amazing even though Tramon is kicking ass. Speaking of Tramon, here is his new web site. www.38reasons.com
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