GREEN BAY—It was his job, and then came the knee injury that sentenced him to the injured reserve list, from where DuJuan Harris watched Eddie Lacy become the league’s hottest new running back and James Starks rush to contract security.
Now, Harris is back in action, but at least two notches beneath where he was a year ago at this time, and that begs the question, what is his role on this team?
“Whenever my number is called; that’s my role. I’m not looking at it as a battle. It takes a team to get to the Super Bowl,” Harris said on Tuesday, following one more OTA practice that brings the Packers one more day closer to training camp.
The knee injury doesn’t appear to have cost Harris any of his quickness. On Tuesday, he caught a pass in the left flat and darted down the sideline, his short, powerful legs a blur.
“I probably could’ve come back (last season), but it would’ve been risky,” he said.
It would’ve been an unnecessary risk. Lacy shouldered the load and when asked on Tuesday if he’s concerned that Lacy might take too much of a beating, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, “I’d like to think Eddie puts the beating on.”
When Lacy needed a rest, Starks entered the game. He rushed for 493 yards and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average.
“His productivity last year was the best of his career,” McCarthy said.
So what about that depth chart at running back?
“My depth chart looks nothing like your depth chart,” McCarthy said.
Harris likely fits in a special place on a different type of depth chart. At 5-8, 203, he’s a different type of runner. He’s a change-of-pace, complementary back who’s compact where Starks is long and lean. Harris is a kind of mini-Lacy.
The challenge remains the same. The challenge has always been to succeed against great odds.
“That’s just what I’m used to. Growing up, I was always one of the smallest guys. They said I wouldn’t make the varsity. Did that. They said I wouldn’t play in a Division One program. Did that. They said I’d have to go to the CFL; wouldn’t be a starter in the NFL. Did that. I’m not fazed by this at all,” Harris said.
“I’m my challenge. I have to come in every day and get better. If I fail to do that, that’s my problem.”
Harris wasn’t the only player to catch a pass and race down the sideline on Tuesday. Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers made the catch of the day, one-handing a reception as he was working across the field. He made the catch in stride and flashed down the right sideline.
“Big-time catch today. I think he’s a natural in space. I’m excited to see him in the inline work when we get to camp,” McCarthy said of his third-round draft pick.
Rodgers dropped weight and moved to wide receiver last season at Cal, where he was forced to fit himself into a new spread offense. McCarthy believes the move advanced Rodgers’ career as a pass catcher.
“Anytime you play in displacement formation, it’s definitely a learning opportunity,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also singled out safety Sean Richardson, who intercepted a pass early in practice. Richardson would seem to have joined the competition at a safety position that might not have been as great a need as it was thought to be.
“Sean’s looked great. He made a nice play out there today. He’ll show up in pads. That’s his world. He’s a big, physical guy,” McCarthy said. Additional coverage - June 10 OTA