Mike Vandermause column: No room for sentimentality in Green Bay Packers' decision to cut cornerback Al Harris

8:26 PM, Nov. 10, 2010  |  Comments
The Insiders: Season 4, episode 10
The Insiders: Season 4, episode 10: The Insiders evaluate the Green Bay Packers through the bye week. Does the team have what it takes to get to the Super Bowl? Rob arrives back home from New York only to find his co-workers missing.
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Al Harris spent the best years of his NFL career as a Green Bay Packers cornerback, earning a pair of Pro Bowl berths and single-handedly winning an overtime playoff game at Lambeau Field.

Over the past year Harris worked tirelessly to recover from a devastating knee injury in the hope of playing in the Packers' secondary this season.

Despite all his efforts, Harris was handed a pink slip on Monday.

It seems like a cold and heartless move by the Packers, but that's how business is conducted in the National Football League. What Harris accomplished in past seasons doesn't matter, and how much toil and pain he endured is immaterial.

There is no room for sentimentality in the NFL. All that matters is the here and now, and in the Packers' estimation, Harris wasn't good enough to land on their 53-man roster.

There's no need to feel sorry for Harris, who was signed by the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday. But if he's good enough to play in Miami, which beat the Packers earlier this season, why couldn't he cut it in Green Bay?

For starters, the landscape at cornerback for the Packers has changed dramatically since Harris blew out his knee last November. Tramon Williams has played at a Pro Bowl level as Harris' replacement, and undrafted rookie Sam Shields is a solid nickel cornerback. At best, Harris would have served as the Packers' dime back, a reduced role that didn't justify his salary.

But even if money played no role in the decision, as the Packers will claim, conventional wisdom suggests a savvy veteran like Harris was a better option than the other cornerbacks on the roster, including Brandon Underwood, Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush. But Harris didn't play special teams, which arguably makes the other cornerbacks more valuable in the short term.

The long-term prospects also factored into the move. Harris will turn 36 in less than a month, and coming off major knee surgery, he can't have much gas left in the tank. Although Underwood and Lee are largely unproven, their potential couldn't be ignored.

The Packers also had to consider Harris' reaction to a lesser role and whether any resulting unhappiness could have become a problem. The last thing the Packers would want heading into the stretch run is a malcontent on their hands.

As for any lingering negative effects in the locker room following Harris' dismissal, coach Mike McCarthy didn't seem worried, nor should he.

Players know the drill by now. They are constantly asked this question: "What can you do for us now?"

Without a compelling answer, they will be thanked for their past contributions, wished well in their future endeavors, and sent packing in short order.

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If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

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