Harrell, the Packers' first-round pick last year, was placed on the physically unable to perform list on Monday to help the team reach the 75-player roster limit a day early. The Packers released four players to get to 75: running back DeShawn Wynn, receiver Chris Francies, offensive lineman Ryan Considine and fullback Ryan Powdrell.
By being placed on PUP, Harrell is ineligible to be on the active roster during the first six weeks of the season. That's followed by a three-week window in which Harrell can either remain on PUP or begin practicing. Once Harrell beings practicing, he must be added to the roster in three weeks or placed on season-ending injured reserve.
The move was not surprising, but it's yet another blow to a defensive line that went from strength last year to major question mark entering this season. With Corey Williams traded to Cleveland before the draft, Ryan Pickett and either Harrell or Johnny Jolly were expected to be the starting defensive tackles. Pickett hasn't practiced during training camp, and while he's on track to be ready for Week 1 against Minnesota, he certainly won't have the stamina to be at his best.
"The disappointing position really all spring has been the defensive line," coach Mike McCarthy said after Monday's late-morning practice. "It's a group that has been such a steady group for us over the years, and we really haven't been healthy since the end of the season.
"I wouldn't say the injuries are affecting the way we are moving forward, but it is a part of our camp right now that is very unfortunate, especially with the type of camp we've had from scheduling and doing less practice days because of our schedule. I'm just disappointed we've got so many guys hurt."
Harrell had back surgery in April to mend an injury sustained while lifting weights. The surgery kept Harrell out of the Packers' offseason program, but the team maintained he would be ready for the start of training camp. Instead, he aggravated the injury before the start of camp, and he never practiced this summer.
The surgery, general manager Ted Thompson said, was done to speed the healing process, which Thompson said had plateaued. Thompson said the surgery may take place on Monday.
"The quicker the better, obviously, because then you can start back on the whole recovery thing," Thompson said. "It's too bad. He's worked very hard, and I know being a high-profile pick, a No. 1 pick, there's a lot of pressure put on that and expectations of fans. It's not his fault, and he's trying his best to get back, and we're still counting on him to help us this year."
The other headlining move was the release of Wynn, who seemed like the answer to the Packers' prayers at running back when he ripped off big runs against the Giants and Bears early last season. But questions about Wynn's toughness, which hounded him coming out of Florida and dropped him into the seventh round of the 2007 draft, never went away. He finished last season on injured reserve, and he missed the last two preseason games with an ankle injury.
Wynn returned to practice on Sunday, but on Monday, he had a "Packers" nameplate hanging above his locker.
"The NFL is a tough business and people get hurt," Thompson said. "Sometimes, guys have worse luck than others. I think it's fair to bring everybody's attention (that) he helped us win a couple games last year."
But, in the end, you can't help win football games when you're not on the football field.
"We tell them all the time, the whole football team, availability and accountability," McCarthy said. "When you are not available, obviously you don't get to take advantage of your opportunities' and that was part of DeShawn's case. The other part of it is the guys around him took advantage of those opportunities."
The others cuts weren't surprising, except perhaps in their timing, with the final cut to 53 players coming on Saturday. Francies, for instance, consistently has been ahead of seventh-round pick Brett Swain and the undrafted rookies on the receiver depth chart. He had spent parts of the previous two seasons with the Packers, playing in seven games.
Powdrell, who spent last season on injured reserve, never made the type of impact you'd expect from a fullback with a battering-ram frame of 5-foot-11 and 260 pounds. Considine, an undrafted rookie, continually had problems in the one-on-one blocking drills.
Bill Huber is editor of Packer Report and PackerReport.com. E-mail him at email@example.com