GREEN BAY – DuJuan Harris must be doing something right.
Since being signed to the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad on Oct. 24, Harris has impressed those watching. And with the running back corps growing thinner, he may get a chance to show everyone why.
“I like him a lot,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “I think he really brings an extra gear. He’s a prime example of a guy who played really well on the scout team for a number of weeks and it was like every week someone else was saying, ‘Hey, see 26 over there? See his runs he was making?’ And when you do that enough, then you get an opportunity. And now we’ve had another injury and he’s getting opportunities, so I think he’s got a chance to make some plays.”
Harris’ opportunity came when he was promoted from the Packers’ practice squad on Dec. 1. Since then, James Starks suffered a knee injury last Sunday that will keep him out “multiple weeks, according to coach Mike McCarthy; Johnny White was placed on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday because of a concussion he suffered on special teams against the New York Giants on Nov. 25; and veteran Ryan Grant was signed to rejoin the team, taking White’s roster spot.
Harris was active for the Packers’ 23-14 victory over Minnesota, but did not play, mostly because of the solid performances of Starks and Alex Green. Starks carried 15 times for 66 yards (4.4-yard average) and scored on a 22-yard run, while Green ran 12 times for 58 yards (4.8-yard average).
“Last week we had talked about getting him some runs, and then Alex (Green) and James (Starks) did such a good job,” Rodgers said. “I think this week you’re going to see him in the backfield getting a chance.”
The second-year player originally signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2011 after playing for four years at Troy University. In five games at Jacksonville, Harris had nine carries for 42 yards. He also contributed on special teams, returning 14 kickoffs for 308 yards. After being released by the Jaguars in training camp, he was claimed by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and then released again. Finally, Harris ended up in Green Bay.
Although the Packers’ haven’t been able to see Harris in game-action, head coach Mike McCarthy said he liked what he saw from the young running back. Still, he doesn’t know where Harris, who is listed at 5-foot-8 and 203 pounds, will fit into the Packers’ offense.
“We don’t really have any game experience with him so he’s someone we’ve been practicing quite a bit here of late,” McCarthy said. “Special teams is probably the priority for him right now.”
Added running backs coach Alex Van Pelt Thursday: “He’s different than the other backs. He’s a smaller guy with tremendous foot speed and quickness, ability to get in and out of the hole quickly and make cuts quickly. (But) until you give him the ball in live action, it’s tough to tell. We’ll wait and see if that opportunity comes.”
Harris said he doesn’t know how he will be used, but plans to do everything he can to make sure he will play an active role on the team.
“I haven’t really been told anything,” Harris said. “I’ve just been told, stay prepared and come to practice ready to practice and get better every day. I just can’t really think too much about it but like I said before, just come in and get better every day and execute whenever my name’s called.”
And if the way Rodgers and McCarthy have spoken about him is any indication, that won’t take long.
“He’s a young man who has a lot of abilities,” McCarthy said. “He’s 5-foot-7, but other than that we like everything about him. He has very good hands. He has burst. He’s quick. So, he’s done a nice job since he’s been here.”