Harper Looking to Make Powerful Statement

After a difficult rookie season, second-year receiver Chris Harper has his eyes on more than just making the team.

Chris Harper knows the Green Bay Packers' historical preference at receiver.

James Jones wasn't fast but he was powerful. Jarrett Boykin isn't fast but he is powerful. Second-round pick Davante Adams isn't fast but he is powerful.

"Even going back to Sterling Sharpe, they had bigger, physical type of receivers," Harper said. "I think that's how it is here. When it comes to receivers, those guys kind of set the bar."

Harper fits that mold, as well. He hopes he's found a home after a challenging first season in the league.

Harper (6-1, 220) starred at Kansas State and was a fourth-round pick by Seattle. Harper, however, was released at the end of training camp. Harper spent two days on the Seahawks' practice squad before the rival 49ers stole him for their active roster. He didn't last long there, either. San Francisco envisioned him as a hybrid receiver/tight end in the mold of Delaney Walker but, short on defensive linemen, gave up on the experiment. The Niners released him on Oct. 17 and Green Bay grabbed him off waivers.

Given his late arrival, Harper didn't have much of a chance to contribute last season. He played in four games -- including just two snaps on offense.

"I learned a lot," Harper said. "More stuff that I'm going to keep to myself, though. But I learned a lot about the National Football League and everything. Yeah, it was a great learning experience for me because I never had to deal with that kind of transition. I transferred (from Oregon to Kansas State) but that was something totally different than last year."

The nomadic start to Harper's career did nothing to curtail his confidence.

"No, not at all," he said. "I've been good since I started playing so it's definitely not going to change the way I feel about myself now."

Harper called it a "different world" by having the offseason to learn the playbook. Before missing the last couple weeks of the spring practices with an injured hamstring, he had earned the praise of quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receivers coach Edgar Bennett and offensive coordinator Tom Clements, among others.

"He's out there making plays. It's good to see," Jordy Nelson, a fellow receiver from Kansas State, said. "I know he bounced around early last year and came in (during the season). He's learned the playbook well. It's getting that comfort level, having confidence, being around, getting comfortable with the quarterbacks and knowing exactly where he needs to be so he's not all worried about everything. It's good to see him making plays and playing faster."

A golden opportunity is in front of Harper. Only four spots on the roster are secure, with Nelson, Randall Cobb, Jarrett Boykin and second-round pick Davante Adams. Harper, Myles White (nine catches as an undrafted rookie in 2013) and Kevin Dorsey (injured reserve as a seventh-round pick in 2013) join rookies Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis in the battle for one or two spots.

"We've got good players, from top to bottom," he said. "You see Jarrett making plays, Davante's come in and made plays, Myles White played last year, Dorsey got hurt but he's a good player, too. It's definitely solid. The competition is good but I don't ever look at it. I know I'm competing with them in my head but I'm trying to start with Jordy and Randall and those guys. It's not like I'm trying to play a numbers game or looking at it like that, because I want to play. You're a team but you want to be on the field every play. That's the way I look at it."

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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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