Harrell has right attitude to start

PackerReport.com managing editor Todd Korth explains why Justin Harrell, Green Bay's sincere and confident first-round pick, will turn fans' boos into cheers this season.

If first impressions with the media mean anything, give Justin Harrell an ‘A.' Green Bay's first round draft pick made his first appearance in Green Bay last weekend. When he addressed the media, he said all the right things about Green Bay and the Packers.

"It looks a lot like home," said Harrell. "I know I'll be able to get settled in and have a good time."

Harrell already is polished when it comes to addressing reporters. He seems to have a happy-go-lucky demeanor, which will sit well with the media and fans. He seems sincere and a little like his football hero, Reggie White, who made it a habit of being sincere and backing up any talk with his play on the field.

At this point, it is difficult to tell what Harrell's demeanor is like on the football field since the team only practices in shorts and no pads till the start of training camp. But Harrell is giving every indication that he plans to be as fierce on the field as he is a nice guy off of it, again like the guy whose No. 92 is retired by the Packers and will be retired by Tennessee. And, by the way, Harrell is the last to wear No. 92 at Tennessee.

"I'm going to come in and work as hard as I can and pretty much put the coaching staff in a position that I am going to be out there, ready to start and ready to play. I want to help out anyway I can with this team. I am going to try to control everything I can to get myself in the best shape. When the rotation comes around, I plan on being a starter."

For now, the former Tennessee standout has questions surrounding him that caused many Packers fans to become irate over general manager Ted Thompson's decision to use the 16th overall pick of the recent NFL draft on Harrell. Is Harrell unlucky or injury prone? Is he worthy of the 16th selection, or would he still have been available later in the first round? Will he be able to step in and start, like majority of first-round picks and make an impact with the Packers?

What is encouraging about Harrell, at least upon this scribe's initial impression, is his maturity. He was a leader among his teammates at Tennessee and that is very evident in the way he handles himself, at least in the public eye. When asked about fans booing Thompson over the selection to take him, Harrell seemed far from discouraged or irritated by the reaction. In fact, it appears that he's taking the negative and turning it into his own personal challenge.

"I heard about it, but that's something I can't control," Harrell said. "That just shows their loyalty to this organization and what they felt like (the team) really needed. Like I say, I'm just going to go out and try to work as hard as I can and hopefully everything will work out."

Harrell, however, hasn't been totally shunned by Packers fans. On his flight from Minneapolis to Green Bay, he encountered some gracious fans on the airplane.

"We were on a small Jet and pretty much all the people on the plane knew we were Green Bay Packers," Harrell said. "One gentleman offered me a seat. I didn't get his name, but I thanked him because he knew I was scrunched in with two people, so he offered me a seat, and he wished me good luck.

"Everything since I've been here has been great. The fans at the airport wished us good luck. "I'm going to come in here and try to control what I can and hopefully let Packers fans see why they did select me."

Harrell said he's nearly all the way back from a ruptured biceps tendon he sustained in the second game of last season. Harrell had season-ending surgery after valiantly trying to play with the injury in one more game.

Harrell acknowledged he needs to rebuild the strength in the arm, but he isn't expected to miss any on-field work in two minicamps this month. His weight is at 310, 10 pounds heavier than where he was at his last three years of college ball. The Packers held him out of team drills during the rookie orientation camp, and it is uncertain if he will participate during the full-squad minicamp May 18-20 in Green Bay.

Harrell will be battling veterans Corey Williams, Colin Cole and Johnny Jolly for the starting spot alongside nose tackle Ryan Pickett. Harrell is no shoe-in for the starting spot, but he has taken the right step forward toward becoming a front-line player with his positive attitude.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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