A Homecoming for Harris

When Al Harris ran back an interception in overtime last weekend, he not only assured the Packers of a trip to the next round - he also assured himself of a trip "home" to face his old team. Laura reports on Harris' feelings heading into the clash with the Eagles...

When Packer cornerback Al Harris jumped Seahawk Alex Bannister's route and gambled for an interception, he guaranteed his team a trip to the next round and guaranteed himself a visit to his old stomping grounds.

Harris spent most of his first five years as a pro with the Eagles. If not for the presence of all-pros Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor, Harris probably would have been a bigger name in Philly. Instead, he built a reputation as a solid backup, playing in all 87 contests since the Eagles plucked him off waivers from Tampa Bay back in 1998.

Now Harris is headed "home." But instead of reliving past years' memories, Harris is focused on repeating last week's victory.

"We're just trying to win and the fact that we're playing Philly makes it a plus," Harris said. "They're a dangerous football team. Everybody pretty much knows that. It's a plus going against guys that you practiced with and pretty much know, but they're probably looking at it as a plus for them also, going against a guy on the other team they know pretty well."

Green Bay traded for Harris on March 3, 2003 to replace right cornerback Tyrone Williams. Green Bay dealt their 2003 selection to Philadelphia, receiving the Eagles' fourth-round pick which the Packers spent on DE Kenny Peterson.

Harris' return to the city of Brotherly Love won't exactly be a walk down memory lane. Even though the bulk of his pro career has been with the Eagles, Harris played his home games in Veterans Stadium, complete with aging turf and ancient facilities. This season the Eagles opened Lincoln Financial Field, playing their first game there six months after Harris became a Packer.

Harris started all 16 games for the Packers this season, tallying 42 tackles, a forced fumble and broke up 14 passes. While a series of near-misses were part of Harris' highlight reel this season, he picked off three passes in the regular season – one each against Detroit, St. Louis and Denver. He returned his first pick as a Packer 56 yards for a touchdown in a 31-6 win over Detroit at Lambeau Field Sept. 14.

While that was definitely an outstanding moment in Harris' first season in Green Bay, there's no contest for his play of the year – so far. In a game that featured enough gut-wrenching turns to rattle even a veteran squad, Harris made sure the final twist was his.

On 3rd and 11 from the Seattle 45 after about five minutes had elapsed in OT, Harris jumped in front of Bannister about five yards into Packer territory. Had Bannister made the catch from red-hot QB Matt Hasselbeck, he would have had room to run and would have put the Seahawks at or near field goal range. But he didn't, and Harris did. The cornerback returned the pick 52 yards for a game-winner that is, as they say on ESPN, an Instant Classic.

"I was just thinking, 'Don't drop the ball.' Two weeks in a row, I've dropped picks so I was thinking, 'Don't drop the ball and make sure you secure the catch,' and it was a footrace from there on."

Harris, although sometimes erratic during the regular season, produced his best game of the year when it counted most for the Packers. Harris will have to keep it going as he revisits Philly because the stakes are going way up and the level of competition is, too.

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