GREEN BAY – DuJuan Harris wanted to say I told you so on Wednesday. So he did.
When the Green Bay Packers injured running back learned he’d need season-ending surgery on his troublesome right knee in late August, he made two things clear: He wanted no pity party to be thrown for him, and he had no doubt in his mind that the running backs still in the mix – rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, and veteran James Starks – would do just fine without him. (A fourth back, Alex Green, was on the roster at the time but would be released on the final roster reduction.)
“I’ve got faith in those guys, and the whole group is strong,” Harris said on Aug. 27. “They’ll get the job done.”
That they have, as the Packers entered this week third in the NFL in rushing yards per game (141.4) and tied for third in the league in yards per carry (4.8) entering Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.
And they’ve done it without Harris, whom coach Mike McCarthy had envisioned as part of a 1-2 punch with Lacy. On Sunday night at the Metrodome, it was Starks serving as the No. 2 punch, as Lacy carried 29 times for 94 yards and Starks ran seven times for 57 yards. McCarthy said earlier this week he’d like to balance out the carries better than that.
“I’m not surprised. I told y’all, I feel like we’ve got the best backfield in the league,” Harris said Wednesday. “Just imagine once everybody is back and healthy. It’s going to be something dangerous. I have a lot of faith in those guys, I’ve watched them work, and I’m not surprised by the outcome at all.
“It’s not just about Eddie, everyone is running well. Franklin is running well, he just had a couple fumbles. But other than that, he’s been running well, showing good speed. Our relationship with each other is what made me feel like we were going to get this done.”
In the meantime, Harris has been with the team since his surgery, which he said revealed no tear in his patellar tendon – something that had plagued him throughout the offseason and then cropped back up after his lone preseason game appearance on Aug. 23 against Seattle. Instead, Harris said surgery found only what he called a “fluid bubble,” which was drained and provided immediate relief. He’s slated to start running “within a month,” and he said there is no doubt in his mind he’ll be ready for the offseason program, although he said it would have been unrealistic to think he could have been put on injured reserve with the designation to return and come back later this year. The Packers ended up using that option on wide receiver Randall Cobb instead.
“The way I feel right now, and my mindset, I think I needed to sit out this year,” Harris said.
Harris said he’s kept a positive attitude because of his belief in his own ability but also because he’s been involved throughout the season. He’s attending all running backs meetings and team meetings.
“I have a lot of faith. I know what I’m capable of,” Harris said. “God works in mysterious ways. You just have to accept it. Once it happens, you don’t sit there and dwell on it. You need to turn a negative to a positive.”
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