Packers release veteran CB Al Harris

The Green Bay Packers have released veteran cornerback Al

Harris, cutting short his attempt to return to the field after a

serious knee injury.

The 35-year-old Harris is nearly a year removed from his

season-ending left knee injury last November. He began this season

on the team’s physically unable to perform list and returned to

practice Oct. 19, giving the Packers a three-week timeline to

decide his future.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the move wasn’t an indication

that the Packers think Harris’ playing days are over.

”I think Al Harris will definitely play again in the National

Football League,” McCarthy said.

Instead, McCarthy said the decision was made with the team’s

overall roster in mind.

Tramon Williams has emerged as a potential Pro Bowl-caliber

cornerback in Harris’ absence, and coaches believe rookie Sam

Shields can develop into a top cornerback over the next few

years.

And if the team were to activate Harris, they would have to

release another player – a move that might hinder them in other

areas, particularly on special teams.

”This is not a physical decision,” McCarthy said. ”This is a

big-picture roster decision.”

The Packers activated safety Atari Bigby from the physically

unable to perform list on Saturday. McCarthy said the team has not

yet made a decision on the future of rookie running back James

Starks.

Harris started all 102 games he played in for the Packers over

seven seasons (2003-09) after being acquired from Philadelphia. He

had 14 interceptions and 108 passes defensed during his time in

Green Bay.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was asked Monday if his team had

any interest in bringing in Harris. The Vikings lost starting

cornerback Cedric Griffin to a knee injury last month, rookie Chris

Cook has been in and out of the lineup with two knee injuries and

veteran Lito Sheppard has been burned several times for big gains

this season.

Childress was non-commital about adding Harris.

”I’m sure we’ll go through and look at tape,” Childress said.

”But Al’s had a great, great career. No, I don’t know if there’s a

spot right now for us in that area.”

McCarthy brushed aside any concerns that releasing Harris would

have a negative effect in the Packers’ locker room.

”You look at all those variables,” McCarthy said. ”With that,

you always trust your leadership in your locker room. Al’s a

veteran player, a popular player. These are decisions that need to

be made at different times of the year. We felt that Al had an

opportunity to come back from a serious injury, he did an excellent

job with his rehab. As far as the locker room, we trust the

leadership in the locker room.”

With the rest of the team celebrating a 45-7 rout of the Dallas

Cowboys, Harris told espnmilwaukee.com late Sunday night that he

expected to be released. McCarthy said the final decision wasn’t

made until Monday morning, and that general manager Ted Thompson

was trying to reach him to discuss the move.

”Ted and I both have been very up front with Al all the way

through the process,” McCarthy said. ”Time and time again, he

knew what his options were, where we felt that he stood and so

forth.”

McCarthy thanked Harris for his dedication to the team, and

Thompson praised him in a statement.

”We want to thank Al for his contributions to the Green Bay

Packers,” Thompson said. ”His hard work, dedication and

professionalism have been the keys to his success. During his time

here, he has been a valuable member of our organization and our

community. We wish him the very best in the future and he will

always be a part of the Packer family.”

AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed to this report from

Eden Prairie, Minn.