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Packers Need To Test Justin Harrell's Limits

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Packers Need To Test Justin Harrell's Limits

Green Bay Packers fans have little to no patience for former first round draft choice Justin Harrell anymore. And understandably so.

The No. 16 overall pick in 2007 has spent some or all of each of his three seasons as a professional on either injured reserve or the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Fresh in everyone's mind is that Harrell didn't play a single snap last season because of his troublesome back, originally injured during a weightlifting accident but complicated by further setbacks.

Even when Harrell has been able to play, he hasn't done anything noteworthy. In 13 regular season games that includes only two starts, Harrell has tallied 28 total tackles and not a single sack. Not exactly production expected of a first-round draft choice.

Well, it's now-or-never time for the former Tennessee Vol. Either Harrell contributes this year or the Packers should eat his contract. There's no getting around it. It's no use keeping him around if he can't even sniff the playing field.

Fortunately, Packers fans shouldn't be subjected to yet another "will he or won't he" studying of the scales whether or not Harrell is healthy enough to play. Definitive evidence should present itself over the course of training camp and the exhibition season.

If I'm correct, the Packers are going push the enigmatic defensive lineman to the limits throughout the course of August to find out if he's worth the investment the team is making in him. Or at least they should.

The Packers ought to take every opportunity to find out if Harrell can withstand the rigors on an entire NFL season. And their only window to do so is about a month's span from the time training camp opens on July 31 until the final preseason game on Sept. 2.

Harrell needs to participating in nearly every drill, taking every possible rep, participating in each snap of the football that he possibly can. It starts in practice and should carry over to the team's annual Family Night scrimmage where players will be taking part in what's essentially a simulated game.

Beyond that, Harrell must play extensively and hold up in all four exhibition games. Only then will the Packer have the proof necessary to determine that he can be an functional, effective cog in the larger Packers machine.

Harrell's preseason playing time shouldn't come at the expense of young players like rookie draft choices Mike Neal or C.J. Wilson or second-year pro Jarius Wynn. But if it's possible Harrell can play a role with the team this season, his development is every bit important as that of the younger players. His potential and raw ability could prove valuable to what the Packers do, and it's worth it to find out  if he has what it takes.

All this isn't to say that the Packers shouldn't play it smart with Harrell this August. The man still suffered a serious injury. It would be smart for him to be placed on the Chad Clifton plan that has him resting during some of the evening sessions during two-a-days. But when Harrell is expected to be practicing, he better be, well, practicing.

The Packers know what they've got in players like Ryan Pickett, Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly. They don't need reps during the preseason games anymore than what it takes to get them in shape, sharp and ready for the start of the regular season. Plenty of extra time can be set aside for Harrell and company.

And if Harrell happens to get injured once the regular season starts, that's the risk you have to take. If Harrell can hold up through an entire rigorous training camp, there's nothing more you can ask. If and when he gets to that point, the chances of him becoming injured afterward would seem to be no more likely than anyone else on the roster.

No more guessing. No more questions. No more hesitancy. It's time to demonstrate if Harrell is capable of "Bustin' Loose."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (12) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

TedTheSledge's picture

From the OTA practices witnessed by some of the beat writers it sounded like Trgovac was on Harrell already pushing him. They definitely need to test him early like you said, and with draft picks invested in Neal and Wilson DL positions may be hard to come by for the 2010 season.

Dilligaff's picture

Although he still was sitting out during some practices like Clifton, while Jenkins was able to fully participate.

Not a good sign. Speaking of backs, does anyone know what the word on Spitz's back?

Dilligaff's picture

IMO Justin will be the 7th lineman we keep, otherwise he is cut and we keep 6. Even if he makes it through camp, he is still a risk with a back injury during the season.

Its worth the wait and to bring him along smartly, but the Packers still need to test that back in camp.

Pickett has made the statement that he can play and be a force, he just needs to get healthy.

greenbowlpackerbacker's picture

Of coarse.... I hope he can pass the test and contribute to the "packer machine"

Wiscokid's picture

The problem is, those types of back injuries never go away and the strain of playing that position just exacerbates the problem. It will be too bad if his career is over before it even starts.

nerdmann's picture

Kidney yin-essence deficiency. I knew last year when I heard that he was getting married during the offtime before training camp that he would re-injure his back. He needs to conserve his male "jing essence."
Probly drink more water too.

JohnRehor's picture

I have thought for a while that Harrell and Jolly may be tied together. Although Harrell has been a huge disappointment and Jolly has continued to improve, the legal issues surrounding Jolly could impact Harrell's future as a Packer. With Jolly being potentially suspended or going to jail, could Harrell make the team with this in mind? If he can withstand the rigors of camp, I think he makes it based on this alone. Not saying its the best decision, but it could be the smart football decision: keep someone familar with the system rather than taking a chance on someone who doesn't.

Tarynfor12's picture

John,
How is Harrell "familiar"with any system when he hasn't played a full camp in either 4-3 or 3-4.That is equivalent to someone who doesn't know the system.
That may sound more assuring IF the previous(Harrell) didn't have RE-Occuring back problems.
I can't see the up-side of a guy who more likely gets HURT and can't PLAY over the guy who is HEALTHY and can PLAY and LEARN.

dgtalmn's picture

Harrell has been an interesting and total frustrating 1st round pick. When TT picked him, I have to admit it totally surprised me because of the known health issues. Seems to me it was a bit of a stretch to select him so early. I believe they should let him go and stick with a DL person that will contribute. I am tried of the yearly waiting to see if "he reached his 1st round potential".

Aaron great job on the site. Love what you guys are doing.

Boothie's picture

Looking into my cloudy crystal ball (slightly cracked, I might add)... I think that Harrell will hold up and earn a place on the Roster... at Jolly's expense. I see (in that ball) that the Packers really like Jolly, but they don't trust him to not be an idiot.

Ron LC's picture

Absolutely on target Brian. Push him until he drops. Give him the full Lombardi. I'd rather see him go down early in Camp than be nursed through to the openner and then go down.

Tarynfor12's picture

RonLC.giving him the full Lombardi will never happen with his back problem.He has re-hurt it every camp while doing nothing.He will be on the team and will cost us one way or another in season.
Four years of nothing and some want yet more of the same,it's beyond my understanding why.He is a 4th year rookie with no future and we should spend the time with the guys we drafted,at least they aren't hurt, yet.

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