The Green Bay Packers have made some missteps in the draft under Ted Thompson. I questioned whether A.J. Hawk was a bust the other day (he is, people, stop kidding yourselves), but as of this morning, 70 percent of you still wanted to give him another year before making a determination.
Another guy bordering on bust is defensive lineman Justin Harrell, whom the Packers selected 16th overall in the 2007 draft. What have the Packers received as a return on that investment? 37 tackles and zero sacks in two years.
Harrell has missed 15 games because of injury in those two seasons.
Coming into the 2009 season, there was a ray of hope for Harrell. The back problems that had plagued him throughout his professional career seemed to have been alleviated. As the Journal Sentinel’s Lori Nickel reported, Harrell went from not knowing if he would play football again, to pain free after he tried acupuncture.
“He’s full-go,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy, earlier this month. “He’s out there in the padded work. We’re keeping an eye on all our players, especially the ones that are coming off of injures. But he’s a full-go participant.”
With this year’s top draft pick, B.J. Raji, still holding out, Harrell was lining up with the starters at left defensive end. That is, until last week.
On Tuesday Packers coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged that Harrell is having back spasms. No timetable has been set for Harrell’s return to action, which brings me to the question: Is it time for the Packers to give up on Justin Harrell?
Some guys are just injury prone. No, it isn’t as if Harrell stubbed his toe and had to go on injured reserve. All of his injury issues since he’s been with the Packers have related to his back, but remember, Harrell missed the bulk of his senior year at Tennessee because of a torn left biceps tendon. This is a recurring theme, and not a good one.
It seems the Packers brass are getting a little frustrated with Harrell. On Tuesday, Thompson mentioned the words accountability and durability when speaking on the subject.
“This game is about accountability and durability and all of that, and that has to factor in. Certainly we think a lot of Justin and we think he has a bright future as an NFL player. He has had his share of bad-luck injuries and he’s going to battle though something now, and he has battled through. We’ll see, but at the end of the day you have to be able to line up and do your part, and he’s giving it a go.”
That statement doesn’t exactly bode well for Harrell.
Still, there are those who think the Packers should continue the Harrell Experiment. The Press Gazette’s Mike Vandermause points out that Harrell is scheduled to make $460,000 this season, which is pretty minimal by NFL standards.
While Harrell is an accident waiting to happen when he steps on the field, the Packers might as well wait it out another year — even if it means stashing him on injured reserve — and attempt to recoup something from this venture.
Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers has seen flashes from Harrell, but…
“When he’s been out there, he’s showed some things,” Capers said. “He’s made some progress when he’s been able to stay out there.”
If you read between the lines, no one in the Packers organization has confidence that Harrell can stay on the field. It’s an ‘If he makes it back from this injury, I wonder when the next one will occur’ mentality. You simply cannot count on a guy like that and cannot build a team like that.
So while Vandermause has a valid point, I would pose this question: Is this roster spot better occupied by a young prospect who could develop into a future contributor (and is probably making less than even Harrell), or is it better occupied by a former first-round draft choice whom the Packers organization has no confidence will ever be injury free.
I say the former. It’s time for the Packers to cut their losses.