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Harris not that unusual as scrap-heap pickup

Dec. 15, 2012
 

It happens every season in the NFL.

A team has injury problems, picks up a little-known player off the street, and ends up with a more than just a roster filler.

Running back DuJuan Harris, for instance, played in five games (nine rushes, 14 kickoff returns) with Jacksonville last season as an undrafted rookie. The Jaguars cut him in training camp this year, then Pittsburgh signed him so they could rest their backs in the preseason finale – he had 12 carries – with little chance they'd actually keep him.

Yet, Harris has a chance to be a significant player for the Packers in the season’s stretch run and playoffs, assuming they qualify. He had seven carries last week against Detroit and showed enough to likely get regular snaps as scat-back type runner this week at Chicago.

If his story isn't the norm, it also isn't unheard of in the NFL.

“You get the opportunity No. 1,” said Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt, “and then you make the most of it, don’t look back. (Harris) did have some opportunities to carry the ball in Jacksonville, I talked to him, maybe he didn’t feel as good about it.

"But we got him here on scout team, and two or three weeks of him making guys miss in space, and we said, ‘This is pretty intriguing.’ Started getting him ready to play and a couple weeks later he’s ready and in the game.”

The Packers don’t know if starter James Starks will return this season from an internal knee bruise, but even if Starks comes back, Harris might have a role as the backup to him and Alex Green.

“I’d like to hope (Harris) can (make a difference),” Van Pelt said. “I think he has the ability to do it, the talent’s there, no question. It’s a unique skill set he brings compared to the other guys. It would be a nice change-up if we could use him as a change-of-pace type back.”

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