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'Snacks' Harrison relishes chance to play for a winner in Green Bay

GREEN BAY - If not for visiting Seattle first, Damon "Snacks" Harrison might have joined the Green Bay Packers almost two months ago.

Harrison said the Packers were a team he planned to visit, but first he made a trip to the Seahawks. He was so impressed with the NFC title contender, and already had familiarity inside the locker room from past stops in his career, that Harrison decided no more trips were necessary.

After meeting with Seahawks general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and defensive line coach Clint Hurtt, Harrison signed with Seattle. The Packers, who coveted Harrison for depth on their defensive line, had to wait.

Defensive tackle Damon Harrison spent the bulk of the 2020 regular season with the Seahawks.

"I had never been a part of an organization like that before," Harrison said of the Seahawks, "which is great on all levels, top to bottom. And I didn't want to pass up that opportunity once I got there."

Harrison said he needed time to get into football shape after missing most of the 2020 season. So while other teams around the league were willing to sign him to their active roster, he said, Harrison was content to join the Seahawks' practice squad.

Still, there was an expectation that he would play. Harrison averaged 23 snaps in six games, with a high of 30 against Washington on Dec. 20. When the Seahawks kept him inactive as a healthy scratch one week later against the Los Angeles Rams, Harrison said he met with Schneider and requested his release.

"It wasn't anything, you know, negative," Harrison said. "I told him that I just wanted the opportunity to get out on the field."

The Seahawks granted Harrison's request for a release, something that might turn into a big positive for the Packers. Harrison was in Green Bay a couple days later, and he played a dozen snaps in Sunday's win against the Chicago Bears that clinched the NFC's top overall seed.

A ninth-year veteran, Harrison was highly selective on which team he was willing to close out this season with. He indicated on Twitter an unwillingness to be claimed, but said he had a "handful" of places he'd be willing to try. The Packers were on that short list.

When general manager Brian Gutekunst reached out to Harrison's agent, the veteran assured him that his client would be happy to join the Packers.

"It was a lot of teams that reached out to my agent to see if I'd be willing to go there," Harrison said, "and I declined a good majority of them. Green Bay was the one that I accepted. So here I am."

In the Packers, Harrison saw a chance to be in a winning environment that has eluded him in his career. Harrison has only been to the playoffs once, so next week's divisional-round game at Lambeau Field will be special.

Harrison got a taste of what playing for a contender feels like last week in Chicago. For the Packers, his arrival was an indication they're poised to go all in for a title run.

"I've always felt when you're making those moves midseason," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said, "bring in a veteran who's played a lot of football, there's a legitimacy to that person and that opportunity. He mentioned after the game, 'It's good to be on the right side of these for once.' That definitely made me smile and chuckle. He's got a good presence about him. He's played a lot of ball. I think it's always a good thing when you can have a guy like that, you know it's going to impact the game.

"Just the film we saw Wednesday when we kind of cleaned the game up, he was in on plays. He was playing like we know he can play, and I think that's the exciting thing for a veteran player."

Hackett gets Falcons interview

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was scheduled to conduct a virtual interview for the Atlanta Falcons head-coaching job Thursday, coach Matt LaFleur confirmed.

NFL Network first reported Atlanta’s interest in Hackett, who has been an integral part in putting LaFleur’s offense in place and taking it to lofty heights this season. The Packers finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in offense, tied for first in scoring, second in third-down efficiency and first in red-zone success.

LaFleur calls the plays, but Hackett oversees the entire offensive staff, presents the week’s game plan to the players and does the bulk of the work on the red-zone offense.

The Falcons didn’t have to ask permission to interview Hackett because it’s not mandatory when offering a promotion to head coach, but LaFleur wouldn’t have prevented Hackett from interviewing.

“I think he’s earned it,” LaFleur said. “I think he’d do a helluva job. Just everything that he’s added, the value that he’s brought here, it’s hard to quantify that. And he does a great job with our entire offense, a great job with leading our offensive staff and so I’m excited for him to get his opportunity.

“I have a lot of confidence that there’s no doubt he’s fully capable of doing a great job and somebody would be lucky to have a guy like him.”

LaFleur served as quarterbacks coach for two seasons in Atlanta and said it would be a great organization for Hackett to lead. He praised owner Arthur Blank and said the club has good people in it from top to bottom.

Rodgers said Hackett would revitalize any club he joined.

“He's been around football for a long time,” Rodgers said. “His dad (Paul), obviously, one of the legendary coaches of this profession. So, he has the pedigree, but his presence. ... He brings such a great, positive energy to a room, and I think any team would be lucky to have him leading their squad.”

Taylor shut down

The Packers are keeping undrafted rookie running back Patrick Taylor on the non-football injury list.

In order to give him an opportunity to work with the team, the Packers used a three-week window available for Taylor to practice, but it ended last week and the Packers either had to activate Taylor to the 53-man roster, keep him on NFI or cut him.

LaFleur has praised the 6-2, 217-pound back out of Memphis and said he was disappointed he didn’t have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot in training camp. The Packers never said what Taylor’s injury was, but he missed a good part of the ’19 season at Memphis with a foot injury and it could have been related.

Taylor had 1,122 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior and finished his four years with 39 touchdowns. He took part in the combine in February and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds and had a vertical leap of 34 inches.