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DuJuan Harris Practices for the First Time at Packers Training Camp

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DuJuan Harris Practices for the First Time at Packers Training Camp

Running back DuJuan Harris was taken off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday and practiced for the first time with the Green Bay Packers since last season.

"I love the team, and I love my teammates, and I'm happy to be back with them," said Harris after practice on Monday. "I've been missing them a lot since I've been gone. It's been a little long, but now I'm back home."

Harris hasn't been able to participate in a practice environment since last season ended. Even during the team's offseason program that spanned May and June, Harris was recovering from offseason surgery that saw him have a softball-sized cyst removed from his lung.

Seemingly having put his surgical operation behind him, Harris was sidelined at the beginning of training camp by a knee injury, which he described as only a "tweak." Still, it was enough to keep him out of the first 11 practices and the first preseason game of the 2013 season.

"I was ready to get back out, but I'm not the expert with injuries," said the soft-spoken Harris. "They told me I had to wait, so that's what I did, listened to them, did everything I had to do, did my rehab."

Harris originally signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent that season between the team's practice squad and their 53-man roster, having gotten a cup of coffee by playing in five games late in the year.

Cut during training camp in 2012, Harris was briefly signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers but released just days later. He then was added to the Packers' practice squad at midseason and elevated to the team's roster late in the year.

By season's end, Harris had become Green Bay's starter at running back, getting the nod in Weeks 14 and 16 and then both of the team's playoff games. Even though he rushed for just 257 yards (including playoffs), he led all Packers running backs in average yards per carry with a figure of 4.6 during the regular season.

The makeup of running back position in Green Bay has changed remarkably since Harris' successful 2012 campaign. General manager Ted Thompson wasted no time spending two selections in the first four rounds of the NFL draft on running backs, adding highly-touted rookies Eddie Lacy out of Alabama and Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA.

There's been a conscious decision to give the running game a new injection in Green Bay, but for his part, Harris isn't fazed by the newest additions and the threats to his playing time.

"Really, competition is the name of the game," said Harris. "We're always happy to be back together and get our work done. I'm not really thinking about. I'm just trying to help the team as best as I can."

When the Packers released their depth chart for the first time during the 2013 season last week, Harris was still listed as the starter despite missing so much practice time over the past several months.

Head coach Mike McCarthy reaffirmed his confidence in Harris during his press conference on Monday, paraphrased by the team's Twitter account as saying, "The way he finished last season, I would classify him as a starter at RB. Doesn't mean he plays every down."

Perhaps that will be Harris' role in 2013, starting each game but sharing time with the other backs on a rotational basis. Still, before that can happen, Harris has to prove his various ailments are behind him.

Roster spots at the running back are at a premium in Green Bay with the influx of talent at the position. In addition to the draft choices, veterans holdovers James Starks and Alex Green continue to battle for perhaps one berth between them. Undrafted rookie Angelo Pease of Kansas State is in the mix as well.

With Lacy out nursing a hamstring injury, Starks started the Packers' first preseason against the Arizona Cardinals on Friday, but did little to rejuvenate the team's rushing attack. The Packers averaged a paltry 3.1 yards on 29 carries. The statistics wouldn't have even looked that pretty were it not for long rushes by the quarterbacks of six yards by Vince Young and seven yards by Graham Harrell.

Now that Harris is finally cleared for a return to action, he'll be looking to help the team out in its efforts to improve the Packers ground game, and he hopes to prove to McCarthy that he deserves to play with the first-string.

"If he believes in me, I believe in myself also," said Harris. "I'm not going to let him down."

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Cow42's picture

I really like Harris.
Better player than Franklin... More elusive, better lateral agility... Quicker feet. Harris also runs with power

If Harris is healthy, and Franklin ends up being unable to serve as a kick/punt returner then I'm not sure how often Franklin will actually get on the field.

In theory, having a bunch of RB's sound great. In reality, how many can you actually use in a game?

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree with you but I also disagree with you.

I love Harris. But I think Franklin is more shiftier and more of a threat as a receiver. Harris is by far the better inside runner at this point.

I don't think Franklin will be used a lot early on, assuming that Harris and Lacy are healthy. But as the season goes on, I think they will find more ways to get Franklin involved.

I really see the Packers trying to use a 2 man rotation for the most part. Ideally Harris and Lacy. BTW that is a great combo. But I think they will use Franklin in certain packages and if Starks or Green are on the roster, I can see them getting some snaps as well. But Harris and Lacy will more likely get the majority of the touches.

I agree that more is not always better. But at the same time, their RB position is deeper then it has been in as long as I can remember.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"Harris is by far the better inside runner at this point."

How on earth can you say that so matter of factly?

RC Packer Fan's picture

I mean that in comparing Harris with Franklin. Harris has proven he is a very good inside Runner. Franklin hasn't proved that yet.
I'm not saying Franklin won't be better, I just meant as of right now Harris is the better of the 2.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

IMO, neither Harris or Franklin has "proven" anything yet. Let's see if Harris keeps it up for a couple hundred snaps, let's not make sweeping generalizations about who or what Franklin is after one PS game behind mostly backup lineman.

Look, I'm a Harris fan and am thrilled he's back, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Franklin proves to be the better back... Including between the tackles. Let's just give him a chance before relegating him to a strictly 3rd down screen back.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Look, I agree with you Fitzcore.
I am just saying that Harris has played in the NFL, Franklin hasn't. Harris has shown he can play. At this point Franklin hasn't.
I'm a huge fan of Franklin, and Harris... I'm just saying that at this point we know more about Harris then Franklin.

I wouldn't doubt at all if Franklin would end up being the better back. I just think starting out the season he will be mostly used as a 3rd down RB, and a more change of pace RB.

I am hoping this week we can see Franklin used with the number 1 offense, behind the better line.

Nononsense's picture

Harris doesn't dance, he picks his crease and hits it with power. That's why I think Harris is a better inside runner than Franklin, who does way to much dancing behind the LOS.

Franklin needs space to be really effective IMO and that's why I think they should use him more as a receiver even split out as a WR from time to time especially if Lacy and Harris are getting it done at RB.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I agree. Although I have seen in college that Franklin was able to get through some tight creases for big gains.
I agree though that Harris is a tougher inside runner. He finds his hole and hits it hard.
I haven't really seen Franklin dance around to much though. I might have missed it, but I thought he hit his holes hard, even though he didn't have much room to run. I would like to see what he could do with the number 1 offensive line.

I agree though that Franklin is the better receiver, and is better in space. I can see them using him similar to how Cobb was used out of the backfield.

PadLevel's picture

I can't believe I am saying this - have to agree with Cow that Franklin was a wasted draft pick, he is very similar to Harris and Harris has the experience of real NFL games. It is possible that Franklin could be trade bait if Harris proves himself to be 100% healthy in the coming days.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I disagree. Franklin was not a wasted pick. He will prove his value.
And if he is similar to Harris, what is wrong with that and having more talent. The Packers RB's have been borderline horrific the last few years. What is wrong with having more talent at the position?

mark's picture

My question exactly--for both Cow and RC. Franklin hasn't played a single meaningful snap of professional football. Please.

Sometimes it's actually ok NOT to have an opinion, or to be humble enough to say, "I don't know yet."

Cow42's picture

You know what... As stupid as this might seem-it comes down to the game vs the Cardinals.

I watched him very closely.
Every time he wanted to change direction or move laterally, he needed to slow down and take multiple steps to make it happen. An RB with limited size and average speed better have unbelievable quickness and bounce. Harris looks more quick-twitch to me. In fact, Stepfan Taylor of the Cardinals also looked to be quicker laterally than Franklin.

There's a real good chance that i could be 100% wrong on this... But when I watch Franklin run I just don't see any bounce... He lacks suddenness.

Nononsense's picture

I really like DuJuan Harris too, he is a bad man.

Now Cow, its not about how many RBs you can use in a game its about having enough good ones to step in when one or more get injured. And trust me some RB will get injured at some point during the season.

I really hope they keep 4 guys at RB and I hope the 4th guy is Angelo Pease. He just looks like a more natural zone RB than Green or Starks and their injury history just reinforces my decision to go with Pease in the 4th spot.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I really think they are going to try and stash Pease on the Practice Squad. Why else would they only give him the ball 1 time Friday night?

I really think that keeping the RB's fresh in a rotation will really help all of them.

Steve's picture

Glad we have him back. The more competition the better

mani2packers's picture

Harris Lacy one two punch! I loveeeee it!

Cow43's picture

All of the RB's are garbage!!

Fi crane's picture

Did you have a birthday cow43

Lucky953's picture

Run harris or lacy off RT behind Mulligan and Barclay: 4.3 YPC

VApackerfan's picture

I'm really excited to see what Dujuan Harris will do this year. I dubbed him the "spark plug" last year after seeing him play. He is quick as s*#%, and seems to hit the hole very hard. There seems to be no hesitation with him, which is why he is the X factor this year. There was an immediate impact when Harris arrived, compared to Green and Starks. J. Franklin will be good, but he is still a rookie, and will be hesitant in his role. E. Lacy will make a bigger impact as a rookie due to his strength and size. I think McCarthy & Co. have been right in their thinking that we don't need a major running game with A-rod at the helm. However, we DO need a running game to compliment him. I think between Harris and Lacy, we will have the perfect duo, and fill that need.

4thand1's picture

Longevity is the key. Remember the SB run? Everyone was on the Starks bandwagon. The Pack will have a good running game because they've committed to it. I'm waiting for A-Rod to rip it up with some play action.

Longshanks's picture

I saw enough of Harris to know he's an elite running back. So is Lacy. The rest are just your average running backs. Harris and Lacy are going to make transform this team offensively and are the ONLY rb's on this roster that defenses actually have to pay attention too. That is the key.

I look at Harris and I see Barry Sanders.(Go ahead and laugh I don't care) The guy is shifty, decisive, fast, and tough as nails and will take anyone one and run right thru them if he has too. He's not going any where. He'll either be the starter or Lacy will.

Lacy reminds me of a young Earl Campbell. Pure power with some speed. Nobody will want to face this guy once he gets his feet wet. The question with him is his durability and already we've seen him on the sidelines.

I could care less about the rest of the rb's. We have Lacy and Harris and that's more than enough. If we can get a draft pick or two for some of the others thru a trade that would be a bonus. TT struck gold finally with Lacy and Harris. I'm happy as hell about our rb situation.

Nerd's picture

Harris has more power than Barry Sanders ever had.

But he has a long way to go before he can even say he's worthy to carry Barry's jock strap.

Lacy is more like Micheal Turner, imo.

Stroh's picture

How about if we see them actually do something worthwhile for a season before we start comparing them to HOF RB's like Campbell and Sanders. THeres a lot to like about both Harris and Lacy, but they have done exactly nothing of note in the NFL to deserve comparisons to HOF RB!

Mr Smith's picture

LOL. Exactly. Harris has 71 total carries in the NFL. Not sure we're ready to annoint him the king of anything.

trvs's picture

Everyone is saying that Franklin and Green are better runners in the open field which makes it hard for them to push through the little holes that the OL creates.

Harris on the other hand seems to have a nose for the gaps and is able to exploit them. Granted I am basing this off of a very small pool of evidence, similar to Starks magical super bowl run, I think we need to keep all 5 running backs and stash Pease on the PS. Each one has a unique skill set, and in GB the more the merrier.

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