After Long Wait, Harper Might Get His Chance

A fourth-round pick claimed off waivers, receiver Chris Harper has been inactive the past six games — which had him asking the coaches what was up. Harper, on his third team in his brief career, is a big, strong-handed receiver who has impressed receivers coach Edgar Bennett.

It's "next man up" at wide receiver.

Chris Harper is next.

Harper, a rookie receiver who was claimed off waivers from San Francisco on Oct. 18, has been waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

"I've been ready to play," Harper said on Thursday. "I went in and talked to the coaches (a few weeks ago) and asked them what they'd seen because I was ready to play. They told me the plan. I still wanted to play but I understood what they were thinking."

Harper was active for his first two games in Green Bay, picking up two tackles on special teams. He's been inactive for the past six games, though.

"Just keep improving," was receivers coach Edgar Bennett's message.

"When you get your opportunity, make the most out of it," Bennett continued. "Big believer in you earn it every single day in your actions and that's been the mind-set. Just make sure we're earning it every day in the meeting rooms as well as on the practice field. That's the key. It all builds toward the game on Sunday, it all builds toward playing at a high level with that confidence."

Harper (6-1, 228) has had a nomadic career. He opened his college career as a quarterback at Oregon before moving to Kansas State to play receiver. He was Seattle's fourth-round pick in April but didn't make the team. He landed in San Francisco, which envisioned him as a Delaney Walker-style tight end. The Niners, in need of defensive line help, didn't have time for a project, so they let him go.

The Packers pounced. He's got the physical skill-set they covet at the position.

"Size, good speed," Bennett said. "Obviously, when you're talking about the receiver position, you have to have some ability – strong hands to catch the football, the ability to create some separation. Chris, he has a little bit of everything. We have to continue to improve, continue to be fundamentally sound. That's the big thing. Just continue to improve in those areas. I think when he gets his opportunity, he'll be ready to respond."

Harper might be getting that opportunity. With Myles White placed on injured reserve this week and Randall Cobb seemingly nowhere near ready to return to action, the Packers are down to just Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin at receiver.

"I believe so. I believe so," Bennett said when asked if Harper is ready. "I think he'll jump in there and do a really good job. When you see a guy with that type of size, strong hands (and) what he brings to the table, it certainly can help."

While Harper has been itching to play for weeks, he also sees a silver lining. Green Bay's playbook is the third he's had to learn in a short period. Some of the terminology is the same, he said, but there's been a lot to information to input and a lot of old information to forget.

"I've just been learning a lot and not having to play, except for those couple of weeks," has been helpful, Harper said. "Just learning from the older guys, really. It's been a learning experience. It wasn't a thing where I was forced to play, so that was good, especially coming into my third system. ... I got sit back and watch how everything went down. It would have been really challenging having to go live bullets (right away)."

Bennett called Harper a "very bright guy" who has been putting in the time to get ready. Now, he might get the chance to show what he's learned.

"Any time you're in the same room with a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver in Jordy Nelson, a veteran guy that brings a lot to the table in James Jones, the Randall Cobbs, the Jarrett Boykins, they bring something to the table," Bennett said. "He's gotten an opportunity to learn from those guys and their experiences. When we turn that tape on, he's seeing it. When we talk about certain techniques and when to apply them, it certainly helps him, so when he's in those situations, he can draw from it and be able to put it to good use."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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