DuJuan Harris was supposed to be Green Bay's starting running back in 2013 before a knee injury curtailed his season. With Eddie Lacy now cemented in that role, how does Harris fit in with the Packers' plans?
DuJuan Harris was supposed to be Green Bay's starting running back in 2013 before a knee injury curtailed his season.
Jeff Hanisch / USA TODAY Sports
By Paul Imig
FOX Sports Wisconsin's Paul Imig gives an in-depth statistical analysis and film study of every Packers player in his annual offseason checkup. Check every weekday through mid-April for his latest report.
Looking live: DuJuan Harris' preparation for the 2013 season began with the then-24-year-old going in for his pre-minicamp physical in June and discovering that there was a "fist-sized" cyst on his lung next to his heart. Though Harris revealed that it wasn't cancerous, he quickly underwent a procedure to drain and remove the cyst. Harris believed that the operation would increase his stamina as the cyst had previously been restricting the full use of his lungs. Coach Mike McCarthy ruled him out for the remainder of the offseason program but was confident that Harris would be ready in time for training camp. However, Harris began training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, though that was because of a knee injury and was not related to the cyst. Harris missed the first 11 practices and the first preseason game, but he returned Aug. 12. In his first two practices back, Harris didn't take any team-drill snaps. But on Day 14 of training camp, it was Harris who was the first running back in with the starting offense. He was held out of the second preseason game, but McCarthy guaranteed that Harris would be "a 100 percent go next week." That held true, as Harris was on the field ahead of Eddie Lacy, James Starks and Johnathan Franklin at the team's next practice. Harris remained in that starting role for the remainder of the week. He also added kick return to his list of responsibilities. But that week concluded with Harris re-injuring his knee in the third preseason game. It was a patellar tendon injury to his right knee, and it was serious enough that the Packers opted to place Harris on season-ending injured reserve Aug. 27.
Upon further review: McCarthy wanted Harris to be Green Bay's starting running back in 2013. Of course at that time, Lacy had yet to become a breakout star, one whose season ended up being so good that it earned him the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year award. McCarthy's plan was to have Harris as the starter and to pair him with Lacy as a one-two punch. "I would classify him as a starter on our football team," McCarthy said of Harris midway through training camp. "I have that confidence in him." To say that McCarthy liked Harris' mindset and attitude as a former undrafted player would be an incredible understatement. "DuJuan Harris being undrafted is probably one of the best things to ever happen to him, and the fact he was out of football," McCarthy said at the time. "There's a different level of motivation for guys that go that route, in my opinion. Entitlement is abundant sometimes when you're dealing with some of these guys coming into our league from college, and when you see a young man like DuJuan Harris, it's refreshing to see how motivated he is." Harris' NFL career was almost over as soon as it began. In 2012, one year after not being among the 254 players selected in the draft, he was selling used cars after being cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers. Sure, Aaron Rodgers has a chip on his shoulder for falling to the late first round in 2005, but imagine then what it's like for Harris considering how much farther down the ladder of success he started from. The Packers never got to see their originally intended one-two punch in action this past season. The good news for Green Bay's offense, though, is that it gave Lacy the opportunity to shine.
Overall 2013 grade: Incomplete
Status for 2014: Ninety percent chance of being on the Packers' active roster to begin the 2014 regular season. The days of Harris being considered the starter are certainly in the past. Lacy is easily one of the NFL's 10-best running backs right now and could definitely be in the discussion for top-five very soon. But that doesn't mean Harris isn't still valuable to Green Bay. If the season started in March, Harris would be No. 2 on the depth chart. The only area of concern for Harris' status with the Packers going forward is that season-ending injuries have led to many talented players in recent years being let go by general manager Ted Thompson. Damaged goods, perhaps. However, that is unlikely to be the case with Harris, who, despite being very undersized at 5-foot-8, showed so much promise in 2012 that he should have a bright future in Green Bay as the running back playing directly behind Lacy.