Two years after the Green Bay Packers deemed long time veteran cornerback Al Harris unfit to continue with the team, Lambeau Field fans are set to see one of their favorite defenders return this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Originally, a knee injury looked likely to derail Harris’ long term future in the NFL, but after a brief stint with the Miami Dolphins, the Rams are prepared to lean on him this Sunday against the undefeated Packers.
For the most part, the Packers wide receivers are taking Harris as seriously as the rest of the NFL would have two years ago. Both Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson have been studying tape of Harris during the week, and both are glad to see their former teammate back on the turf.
But what looks to be on paper as a seriously one-sided game this weekend, Harris has every right to feel a little irritated when facing his former team — even though he says he isn’t willing to play the “revenge card”. Under the circumstances, general manager Ted Thompson didn’t do him any favors, and just when Harris looked to be regaining fitness, the Packers waived him overnight like it was nothing.
On Sunday however, the Packers offense needs to be wary of their former cornerback. Tape study shows just how fast Harris still is (even at age 36), along with his ability to step in front of a receiver on the outside and make a play on the ball.
The problem for Harris though, is Aaron Rodgers. That’s a line we’re likely to use a lot this season, but having thrown only two interceptions so far, Rodgers has been one of the most careful quarterbacks in 2011 when it comes to passing. That, plus the Rams doughnut secondary which has allowed 1618-yards and 14 touchdowns this season places St. Louis in an early hole.
But where Harris should come in for the Rams is during tackles, an area linebacker James Laurinatis has covered quite well. In his day, Harris was known for glad-wrapping defenders up, and former NFC South foe Matt Hasselbeck knows just how dangerous he is.
Where Harris may be at a disadvantage is on the mental side of things. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo has been in full support of Harris since joining the team, but as we saw in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints, Rodgers loves to pick on cornerbacks who have been away from the game for an extended period of time.
Of course, Harris isn’t quite as babyfaced as rookie corner Patrick Robinson is, but still.
So does Harris have any other advantages at all?
Jermichael Finley may be the only one, but Harris will have to hope he has another off game at home. Last week against the Atlanta Falcons Finley dropped a touchdown catch in his breadbasket on third down, and his mouth more or less did the talking from there on out.
Along with Harris’ return to the starting role, former Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga also sets off against his old team. Poppinga received the same Ted Thompson treatment after the Packers parted ways with him in July, another player who was cut after sustaining an injury.
On Sunday, expect the Packers to target Harris’ lack of speed the most. It was never a huge part of his game to begin with, but a knee injury combined with 14-years of NFL wear and tear gives the Packers a huge boost in the air.
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