The Green Bay Packers entered this season with one of the best secondaries in the league, but after three weeks that has changed dramatically due to injuries. Veteran Pro Bowl cornerback Al Harris is the latest to go down, and he may be lost for the season.
The National Football Post reported today that Harris may have a ruptured spleen, which would sideline him for the rest of the season, pending a second opinion in the next day or two. Harris was injured in the first quarter of Green Bay's 27-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field when he collided with linebacker A.J. Hawk.
“Most doctors will tell a player to forgo a season just because of all the downside risk,” said Harris’ agent, Jack Bechta, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The conservative answer now from the original (diagnosis), I believe from Dr. (John) Gray, is to shut it down. But nothing is imminent as of yet.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that the team's medical staff was "just doing scans" on Harris and were "checking for everything." More on Harris' condition is expected to be revealed by the team on Tuesday.
Harris left Sunday night's game with 6:51 left in the first quarter after he collided with Hawk while in pass coverage. Harris returned two plays later, but had to leave the game after tackling Cowboys running back Marion Barber. The team initially thought Harris was suffering from cramps on during the unseasonably humid night.
McCarthy said after the game that Harris had blood in his urine and was not allowed to return by the team's medical staff.
Tramon Williams stepped in for Harris the rest of the night against the Cowboys. He is expected to remain the starter if Harris is out indefinitely. At 5-foot-11, Williams is 2 inches shorter than Harris. He gave up touchdown passes the last two weeks.
Cornerback Will Blackmon and rookie second-round pick Pat Lee will be moved up in the rotation.
Harris' injury rocks a Packers' secondary that played without safety Atari Bigby (hamstring) and lost safety Nick Collins during the game with a bruise to his back. Collins' replacement — Aaron Rouse — had been bothered by an ankle injury last week but was able to play. Charles Woodson has played the last two games with a broken toe and said afterward that it was "hurtin'."
Woodson, in his 11th season, has been skipping most or all of practices during the week.
"It's a tough week, but this is what we're paid to do," Woodson said. "Regardless of injuries and what hurts on the guys, you've got to get it right to get ready for next week."
Without Harris and possibly Bigby and Collins, the Packers will go from having one of the more experienced secondaries to very youthful.