Exactly 50 weeks after Al Harris’ 2009 season ended with a devastating knee injury, his Green Bay Packers career will end.
The Packers will release the 13-year veteran cornerback on Monday, he told ESPNMilwaukee.com’s Jason Wilde on Sunday night.
Harris returned to practice on Oct. 20 and quickly proclaimed himself ready to play. But as the days progressed and he hadn’t been activated to the 53-man roster for games against Minnesota, the Jets and, then, Sunday night’s game against Dallas, Harris seemed to sense that the end might be near.
“However it works out, I can’t complain. It’s been an awesome ride,” he said on Thursday.
Harris, who, among other things, tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee on Nov. 22 against San Francisco, spent the first six weeks of this season on the physically unable to perform list along with veteran safety Atari Bigby. Bigby was activated for Sunday’s game against Dallas. With Harris rendered to spectator status again, undrafted rookie cornerback Sam Shields had his first career interception but also gave up a jump-ball touchdown to Dez Bryant.
Monday is the deadline for the Packers to make a decision on Harris and running back James Starks. The options are add them to the 53-man roster, put them on season-ending injured reserve or release them.
“We haven’t made a decision on Al yet,” coach Mike McCarthy said after the game.
Harris, who turns 36 on Dec. 7, started 102 games for the Packers from 2003 through 2009, earning Pro Bowl trips following the 2007 and 2008 seasons. He had earned so much respect around the league that he made the Pro Bowl in 2008 even though he didn’t have an interception all season and missed four games because of an injured spleen.
Shields’ strong play all season as the third cornerback no doubt played a role in the decision. However, you only have to look back to last season, when the Packers were without Harris and Will Blackmon for the playoff run, and guys like Josh Bell, Brandon Underwood and Jarrett Bush took turns getting beaten for big plays as the third corner alongside starters Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams.
Asked two weeks ago about Harris’ progress, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt told Packer Report: “He’s looked good. He’s looked real good. You can’t tell he’s had an injury. He’s playing as fast as he did before he got hurt last year. I’m very, very pleased with where he’s at.”
Apparently, however, not pleased enough to keep Harris as an insurance policy, at worst, or let him compete with Shields for playing time.
“Al understands that this is a business and he wishes the Packers nothing but success in the future,” Harris’ agent, Jack Bechta, told the National Football Post, for whom he is a contributing writer. “Al’s been ready to play for several weeks and we expect he’ll be claimed by another team when the opportunity presents itself.”
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.