We’re not totally ready to write off Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Justin Harell, but we’re pretty close.
Since being drafted 16th overall in the 2007 draft, Harrell has done next to nothing, spending most of his time on injured reserve. Harrell has totaled 28 tackles and no sacks in three seasons.
This year appears to be Harrell’s last chance with the Packers. If he can’t stay healthy or doesn’t impress during training camp, expect the Packers to cut the cord.
If or when that happens, the blame lies only at the feet of Packers GM Ted Thompson.
I read an interesting article by the National Football Post’s Greg Gabriel recently that looked at why highly-regarded players turn into busts. Gabriel cites one main reason those players fail — lack of football character.
In other words, some players have talent, but they don’t really care about the game. They don’t work hard and eventually, they find themselves out of the game. JaMarcus Russell comes to mind.
On the other hand, some players succumb to injuries, and Gabriel argues that no one should be considered a bust if that happens.
An injury or injuries can take away from his natural physical traits, causing him to perform at a lower level. I don’t ever consider a player in this situation a bust.
Why? Because injuries are an expected part of the game. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. And the team has to deal with it. While management may be disappointed, so is the player. It’s not like he wants his level of play to decrease.
I don’t think anyone would consider Harrell a low football character guy, so you could indeed argue the second situation applies. Harrell has demonstrated a love for the game and has tried and tried again to work his way back from injury, but hasn’t been able to.
Of course, Gabriel offers a caveat, which is precisely the situation Thompson entered into when he drafted Harrell after the defensive tackle missed most of his senior season at Tennessee with a torn biceps.
If a team drafts a player high and the player had a history of injuries in college and that history follows him into the NFL, then it’s the club’s fault and the decision makers should be held accountable.
Sure, Harrell didn’t have an extensive injury history at Tennessee, but not many teams choose a guy in the first round who’s coming off a season in which he spent more time on the sidelines than on the field.
Thompson did just that and he’s paying the price.
A lot of people ride Thompson for drafting players who don’t seem to make a lot of sense or whom they haven’t heard of. Quite a few fans booed when the Packers picked Harrell in 2007 and it’s pretty clear they had reason to do so.