Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris, who figured to have a featured role in Mike McCarthy's offense this season despite the presence of impressive second-round pick Eddie Lacy, will now be forced to watch 2013 from the sidelines.
At his post-practice press conference Tuesday, McCarthy announced that Harris would be placed on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury. The Packers head coach reiterated that it's the same knee that Harris has been dealing with for the majority of training camp.
A second opinion on the knee, which Harris re-injured against the Seattle Seahawks Saturday night, confirmed the worst case scenario for Green Bay. Harris told reporters following practice that the issue is with his patellar tendon.
While the NFL does allow the option for a player to be placed on IR with designation to return, the Packers can't place Harris on the season-ending version and later downgrade the application to the short-term. A player also needs to be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible. If he's placed on IR Tuesday, Harris will miss the entire 2013 season.
The 5'7" running back burst onto the scene last season.
Signed as a street free agent, Harris was promoted from the Packers practice squad in early December before carving out a defined role in the offense to finish 2012. He tallied 100 total yards during Green Bay's Wild Card round win over the Minnesota Vikings, and later led the team in rushing against the San Francisco 49ers. Overall, Harris rushed for 257 yards and caught nine passes for 81 yards over six games, including the playoffs.
Throughout this offseason and into training camp, McCarthy has remained steadfast in his support for Harris, who he viewed as a starter and a featured member of the Packers offense.
Green Bay will now have to shift gears at running back, with Lacy figuring to get a bump in touches and the first crack at starting. Veterans Alex Green and James Starks should feel a little more comfortable job security-wise, while the development of fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin—a running back with a similar skill set as Harris—will now be put into the spotlight.
More than likely, Harris' injury will mean the Packers keep Lacy, Green, Starks and Franklin as their four running backs to start 2013.
McCarthy was clearly shaken by the news.
"He’s a young player I felt would be an important player for us on offense," McCarthy said. "It’s a tough blow for him. DuJuan was a big part of my individual focus for the season."
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.