Harris Continues Improbable Return

Al Harris epitomizes the kind of physical man-to-man coverage that the Green Bay defense likes to employ in the secondary. After suffering what looked to be a devastating spleen injury, the Pro Bowler is already back on the practice field. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Al Harris took another step toward making what would be an unbelievably hasty return to the Packers lineup.

The Pro Bowl cornerback was on the practice field Monday afternoon, when the team reconvened after its bye week.

Harris is eyeing a return to action when the 4-3 Packers, who have won two straight games and are tied for first in the NFC North, play at the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

"It's been tough," Harris said. "I'm glad we're back on the winning side of the record part of it, but it's been tough."

Harris has missed the last four games after suffering a lacerated spleen in the Packers' 27-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 21. The injury was initially thought to be serious enough that it would end Harris' season and possibly his career.

The prognosis took a turn for the better, though, after Harris underwent a series of tests and sought multiple opinions from doctors about whether he could safety return to the field this season. Harris was cleared to do individual drills away from practice before the bye week.

CB Al Harris
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said the team's medical staff is taking a cautious approach with Harris this week, classifying it as a "trial return," and won't rush him back into a game.

"It's important to get Al back on the practice field just to see where he is and get him back to football shape, and there's no substitute for that," McCarthy said. "Every player goes through it. You can condition with the best of them, and you still have to get out there and tug and pull and do the things that are required to get you in football shape."

Harris is expected to be eased into team drills Wednesday.

As for the possibility of having Harris reclaim his starting spot Sunday, McCarthy said, "We'll answer that question at the end of the week. It's an option, though. Hey, it would be great to have Al out there starting, but I'm only going to put him out there when he's ready."

The Packers went back to work Monday following their bye week. The players were granted an extended break of five days by McCarthy and didn't practice at all last week.

McCarthy said before practice Monday afternoon that quarterback Aaron Rodgers, among a slew of players nursing injuries from the first seven weeks of the season, benefited from the time away from the field. Rodgers played the last three games with a sprained throwing shoulder.

McCarthy held Rodgers out of Monday's practice, but the plan is to have Rodgers throw later in the week more than he did during each of the three weeks preceding the bye week.

"If I could get him to throw two days, I think that would be probably best," McCarthy said. "But, I'm going to let Dr. (Pat) McKenzie drive that car. We just have to be smart" before Sunday's game at the Tennessee Titans. …

McCarthy is into his first week of balancing fatherhood and being a head coach in the NFL.

McCarthy's wife, Jessica, gave birth to daughter Gabrielle on Wednesday. McCarthy has a 17-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

"Just to go through it again, you talk about toughness of your football team, there's nothing that compares to what Jessica and what women go through to have a child," McCarthy said. "It was just a remarkable miracle, and I enjoyed every second of it."

Although he gave his coaching staff the last four days of the bye week off, McCarthy managed to get some solitude from a restless newborn by going to his Lambeau Field office every day to engage in a study of his team to this point.

"She's sleeping four hours, so you get four-hour cracks at self-scouting," McCarthy quipped. "From a professional standpoint, it really worked out well for me because everybody was off throughout the weekend. I had some quality time in the building by myself going through really the self-scout of every aspect of our program."

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