'Snacks' time: Packers claim veteran defensive tackle Damon Harrison
GREEN BAY - When the Seattle Seahawks released him this week, Damon "Snacks" Harrison Sr. indicated his strong preference to not be claimed off waivers, instead preferring to control his own future.
The Green Bay Packers are testing that theory.
The Packers claimed Harrison off waivers Wednesday, according to the NFL's transaction wire. In doing so, general manager Brian Gutekunst hopes he can add veteran depth to a defensive line that has played better in recent weeks, but was a primary culprit in the Packers' 2019 season ending on the Super Bowl's doorstep.
Harrison indicated on Twitter he had a short list of teams he would be willing to play for if they claimed him, and the Packers apparently were among them. It's likely Gutekunst was aware of where his team stood on that list. The Packers were interested in signing Harrison the last time he was available in November. He instead signed with the Seahawks.
In four games, Harrison had nine tackles and a forced fumble. When the Seahawks decided to keep Harrison inactive as a healthy scratch for last week's game against the Los Angeles Rams, the veteran requested his release. Harrison indicated he wanted to join a contending team for whom he could play.
If Harrison chooses to play with the Packers, he would not be available this week because of the NFL's protocols for COVID-19 safety. Still, he would be available for the playoffs. Harrison, who turned 32 last month, is in his ninth NFL season after starting his career in 2013 as an undrafted defensive lineman with the New York Jets. He became one of the league's best interior defenders early in his career and was selected a first-team All-Pro in his first season with the New York Giants in 2016. He played with the Detroit Lions in 2019, then sat out this season before joining the Seahawks.
Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark sounded excited about the addition, tweeting, "Let's get it @snacks !!"
Harrison, never a big sack artist, specializes in stopping the run. The Packers' run defense has improved late this season, including holding Tennessee's Derrick Henry to 98 yards Sunday night. But the Packers were knocked from last year's playoffs after giving up almost 300 rushing yards at the San Francisco 49ers.
Quick thinking pays for Packers
Credit coach Matt LaFleur and offensive line coach Adam Stenavich for making sure Aaron Jones’ crucial 59-yard run in the third quarter Sunday against Tennessee wasn’t overturned by replay.
On that play, Jones bounced a run outside and ran along the sidelines in front of the Packers' bench. Officials on the field didn’t see that a little more than 20 yards downfield, the outside of Jones’ left foot hit the sidelines.
LaFleur and Stenavich, though, saw that Jones might have stepped out and had Aaron Rodgers hustle the Packers’ offense to the line of scrimmage and quickly run a play. By the time the broadcast of the game showed the replay that would have tipped off Tennessee’s coaches that Jones stepped out, the Packers had just snapped the ball and the play couldn’t be challenged.
“Me and Matt were both kinda standing right there, we were away from – we usually stand on the opposite end of where the ball is,” Stenavich said. “So Aaron (Jones) came flying down the sidelines, and I didn’t see for sure that he stepped out, it was pretty – it was close. Matt and myself were both like, ‘Hey, we gotta go.’ It was good thing we did because afterwards the guys up in the box said that part of his foot stepped out.”
Progress for Sternberger
Jace Sternberger remains in concussion protocol, but the Packers' second-year tight end might be nearing a return.
Sternberger, who has missed the past four games because of a concussion, practiced Wednesday for the first time in a month. Tight ends coach Justin Outten said it was a light practice for Sternberger.
"It wasn't much of an opportunity today," Outten said, "just because it was a walkthrough mentality. He got a few reps, but it was good to have him back out there. And it's just going to be a weekly, a daily thing just to catch him back up to speed. Anytime you miss a practice, you feel like you're behind. But he's been out for a while now, so we've just got to get his legs back under him and get him back into a routine and see where it goes."
Sternberger has 12 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown this season.
Running back Jamaal Williams also returned to practice after missing last week with a quadriceps injury. It's unclear what Williams' availability will be for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears, but the Packers will have an even more crowded backfield when he returns after AJ Dillon established himself in the offense against Tennessee.
Right tackle Rick Wagner was present at practice but did not participate because of a knee injury that forced him to leave Sunday night in the second half. Defensive lineman Kinglsey Keke also did not practice because of a concussion.
Cornerback Kevin King (groin), receiver Allen Lazard (core/wrist), tight end Marcedes Lewis (knee), safety Will Redmond (concussion), linebacker Za'Darius Smith (ankle/thumb) and receiver Equanimeous St Brown (knee) were limited.