After missing virtually all the offseason and the first 2 1/2 weeks of training camp because of a knee injury, Green Bay Packers running back DuJuan Harris passed his physical and took part in his first practice Monday.
Despite the offseason addition of second-round pick Eddie Lacy and fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin, coach Mike McCarthy still had Harris atop his running back depth chart, even before he practiced.
McCarthy said Harris' status was based on what he did last season. After being promoted to the 53-man roster on Dec. 1, Harris carried 34 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season, then added 28 carries for 100 yards and two more TDs in the playoffs. He also caught two passes for 17 yards in the regular season and seven passes for 64 yards in the playoffs.
"DuJuan Harris, the way we finished the season I would classify him as a starter on our football team," McCarthy said. "That doesn't mean he goes out and plays every down. (But) I have that confidence in him. It took us awhile to get him ready last year, but I thought he finished the season very strong."
Harris had been out of football and working at a Jacksonville, Fla., car dealership when the Packers called and added him to the practice squad last October.
The Packers were only in helmets and shorts Monday. When they are in pads on Tuesday, McCarthy said, Harris will likely be limited to individual drills.
"I'm very confident that sometime next week he'll be where he needs to be," McCarthy said.
That means Harris is unlikely to play Saturday night at St. Louis, although he has other ideas.
"Definitely," Harris replied when asked if he will play against the Rams. "Definitely."
Harris wouldn't say what the injury was or when it happened, but he admitted he was getting anxious to return to action.
"I love my teammates. I've been missing them a lot since I've been gone, feeling a little lonely, now I'm glad to be back home," Harris said. "When you're away from something for so long, you kind of value it a more, so I've kind of learned that a little bit more. I was ready to get back, but I had to take my time. I didn't want to come back too soon."
He may have returned at just the right time. The Packers running backs carried 26 times for just 70 yards (2.7-yard average) against Arizona, with James Starks (12 carries, 38 yards, 3.2-yard average) the most productive of the bunch.
Harris said he isn't bothered by the increased competition and that he's focusing on himself first.
"Really, competition is the name of the game," Harris said.