Make no mistake, Harrell's absence from the Green Bay Packers' Organized Team Activities practices, which began Tuesday, will again hurt his chances of playing on a regular basis. That puts him on a Jamal Reynolds-type pace. You remember Reynolds, right? The defensive end had a lot of bark while at Florida State, which prompted the Packers to select him 10th overall in the 2001 NFL draft. As soon as he arrived in Green Bay, Reynolds showed very little bite and showed everyone that he shouldn't have been drafted - period.
Harrell, team's first-round draft pick from a year ago (16th overall) had little to show for his rookie season. Unless something drastic happens, it appears that Year Two is headed in the same direction.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters today that Harrell underwent a minor back surgery after hurting himself while lifting weights early in the team's off-season workout program, which began in late March. Harrell, says McCarthy, is expected to be ready for the start of training camp on July 28. We'll see about that, but in the meantime, Harrell will miss valuable reps in the team's practices throughout the next month.
"Any time, particularly a young player, misses time it's not to his benefit," said McCarthy.
Harrell desperately needs practice time. He missed most of last off-season after recovering from a torn biceps injury that he sustained early in his senior year at the University of Tennessee. When he was healthy enough to begin practicing, he was hopelessly buried on the bottom of the depth chart of an impressive list of defensive tackles. Harrell wound up playing in nine total games, including the playoffs, last year, with two starts. Those two starts came only because of injuries to other defensive linemen in front of him, like Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole. If those two players don't get hurt, Harrell probably would have played even fewer snaps and games than he did as a rookie.
The Packers gave Harrell a break of sorts this off-season by trading starter and frachise player Corey Williams to Cleveland. With Jolly still on the mend from shoulder surgery last December, the team's current practices would have provided Harrell with an opportunity to develop moves to help him get to the quarterback and make tackles better than he did last year. When he did play, it was obvious that Harrell lacked a plan of attack that is essential to be a successful defensive tackle. He showed a little push and he often got sucked into offensive lineman and didn't always know how to use his hands to create separation so he could use his quickness to blow past them.
This is the time of year for a young player like Harrell to develop moves, tweak them and perfect them, but that's not going to happen. By the time training camp arrives and the pads are on, it's too late.
We now can officially start tagging Harrell as a ‘bust' because that's what he is so far. Maybe he'll show some improvement when he gets back to practice, but after watching him in practices and in game situations last season, I wouldn't hold your breath. A first-round draft pick in today's NFL is expected to contribute as a starter almost immediately, especially a top-20 pick. Harrell hasn't come close. While he has a pleasant personality and a positive attitude, that doesn't always cut it.
The fact is, all Harrell has shown the Packers thus far is that he is injury prone. What's crazy is that the Packers knew of his injury history when they drafted him. But then he sprained his ankle last year, causing him to miss five games, and now it's his back. Not good for a defensive lineman that relies on leverage and plenty of strain on the lower back to get from point A to point B.
At this point, it seems as if general manager Ted Thompson whiffed on his first-round pick for 2007. Thompson has had a pretty good average of hitting on players in the draft, but this is beginning to look like a swing and a miss for the third out with the bases loaded. Harrell has plenty of time to turn things around, however, the bust shadow is creeping over him by the week until he can step out of it.