Uphill battle for No. 1 pick

Justin Harrell

Harrell has long way to go conditioning-wise before he can make an impact

If the Family Night scrimmage is any indication, Justin Harrell is in for a long month of conditioning. Fortunately for the Packers' top pick of the recent NFL draft, Harrell has some time to get in better shape.

The good news from Saturday night's scrimmage for Harrell is his surgically repaired biceps held up well and he had "no problems." Conditioning-wise, however, Harrell continued to show that he is far from regular-season ready.

"I still got a ways to go," Harrell said. "Everyday hopefully I can go a little farther and within the next week, I should be at a level where I'll be ready for the regular season."

Harrell played on all three defenses Saturday night and ended up with one tackle and one pass defensed. In between, he showed some push, but often was shoved out of the way by the offensive linemen he faced.

Through the first week of training camp, it has become obvious that Harrell needs to be in better condition. To his credit, the team's No. 1 draft pick has kept his head down and is pushing ahead, though, that's about all he can do right now.

Harrell played a number of snaps against free agent guard Travis Leffew during the scrimmage, and Leffew won the majority of those battles by sealing off the winded Harrell many times in pass protection and run-blocking.

When Harrell got a break, it was for only a play or two before he was inserted into the scrimmage.

"Coach is trying to get (my) conditioning back to the level where it needs to be to play a regular season game, so it was expected," said Harrell. "They're going to challenge us and we'll keep working. Like I say, that conditioning is going to come through the work that we did, like today. You've got to accept it and know your role as a rookie and try to work as hard as you can."

At this pace, Harrell will probably need all of this month to get in better shape. To be fair, he hasn't played in pads since he injured his biceps last September. But for a No. 1 pick, the Packers no doubt are expecting more out of Harrell this season. If he is unable to beat Leffew, what is he going to do against regular starting guards in September?

If Harrell was supposed to have excellent quickness to make plays, like we were told when he was drafted 16th overall in April, he has yet to show it in training camp. Harrell will have more chances in the upcoming preseason games to prove why he was rated so highly by the Packers. If he does, great. But if he keeps getting shoved around by third-string offensive linemen, Harrell may quickly remind Packers fans of another former No. 1 pick that never lived up to expectations – Jamal Reynolds.


Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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