Will Harris Be Ready?: 'You Know the Answer'

Veteran cornerback Al Harris, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL, is defying the odds while on the comeback trail. Don't bet against the 35-year-old Harris, who was at Wednesday's practice. "It's not done yet. It's not done yet. That's what drives me."

Will Al Harris defy logic and the odds and be on the field when the Green Bay Packers open the season on Sept. 12?

Al Harris offered no predictions other than a sly smile.

"You guys probably know the answer to that," Harris said.

Harris' 12th NFL season ended on Nov. 22, when he was driven off the field on a cart during the game against San Francisco. Not only had he torn the ACL in his left knee but his MCL.

Two weeks later, Harris turned 35 years old. A little research by Harris' confirmed the common-sense thinking: Harris' career probably was over.

"You usually don't come back from injuries such as this and perform," Harris said after watching part of Wednesday's organized team activity.

"You read that and you take it for exactly what it is," he continued. "That's what it says. You know what I mean? Different people have their opinions; I have my opinion. We're here, June 2nd, we're running and doing the things I need to do to get better."

That Harris is even considering being ready for Week 1 is incredible. Joseph Caroccio, who directed Harris' workouts at Atlantic Rehabilitation Center in North Miami Beach, Fla., called Harris' injury "probably one of the worst I had seen in my 20 years of experience. For reference, Nick Barnett — who's seven years younger than Harris — was eased back into action after tearing only his ACL on Nov. 9, 2008.

But Harris has been doing football-specific drills as part of his rehab for weeks. He's in immaculate physical condition — as always. And there's a burning desire to play again. Retirement isn't on his radar, but he'd much rather exit on his own terms rather than on the back of a John Deere.

At his age and with a superb career to look back on, why not just retire?

"It's not done yet. It's not done yet," the two-time Pro Bowler said. "That's what drives me. There are naysayers — that's not what drives me, but you stop when you want to stop. It's not done yet. When it's done, it's done."

Harris, whose comeback has been chronicled during a 14-part video series at National Football Post, is finished with his work with Caroccio and will complete the rehab process in Green Bay with new Packers head trainer Mark Lovat and his teammates.

The videos are gripping and offer a revealing look at why elite athletes are different than the rest of us. Who would have blamed Harris for retiring? Instead, Harris bares his soul as he fights through the mentally and physically painful process of rehabbing from extensive surgery.

"That was the purpose of the videos pretty much, to show you the inside of rehabilitation," he said. "I, personally, didn't know the insides of rehabilitating a knee or any other injury because, thank God, he's blessed me for so many years to not to have to go through any of that. For the people who don't have to go through it, that's a part of it."

The biggest challenge, Harris said, was getting the range of motion back in his knee. The videos show Caroccio pushing and pulling Harris' leg — and Harris screaming and writhing in pain as Caroccio stretches the ligaments and burrows through the scar tissue. That part is just about behind him. Second-year cornerback Brandon Underwood said Harris moves better than most cornerbacks 10 years younger.

"This has brought me closer to my family, to God, to everything," Harris said of the rehab.

Nobody will ever know how the Packers' season would have turned out had Harris not gone down against the 49ers. It's a pretty short leap to figure the Packers would have beaten the Steelers in the regular season and the Cardinals in the playoffs. Instead, because of its injury-ravaged secondary, Green Bay lost both shootouts.

"That was hard, the bits and pieces that I did watch," he said. "It's still hard to watch, even watching practice. But that's a part of it, and that fuels you, to watch the guys go out there and work, to watch your friends play cohesive as a group"

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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