GREEN BAY – DuJuan Harris is hoping to be part of the 1-2 running back punch with Eddie Lacy next year that the two were supposed to be this year.
Harris entered training camp as the Green Bay Packers starting running back, coach Mike McCarthy had insisted, but a right knee injury that had sidelined him all offseason recurred in his preseason debut, landing him on injured reserve.
Harris said at midseason that there was fluid on the knee and irritation of the patellar tendon but no structural damage found when he underwent surgery in August, which is a good sign for a full return to action when the offseason program and organized team activities kick off in spring.
“If they would’ve needed me last night, I’d have switched jerseys with somebody if I needed to,” Harris said as the Packers players cleared out their lockers Monday, one day after their season-ending 23-20 NFC Wild Card Playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field.
“I can run. I can outrun a lot of the guys in this league right now. my test is going to be getting it at top speed and then stopping all of a sudden. Once I get that down, I know [the] things I can do.”
While Lacy rushed for a Packers rookie record 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns in essentially 14 games – he added 21 carries for 81 yards in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers – No. 2 running back James Starks, who carried 89 times for 493 yards (5.5-yard average) and three touchdowns, is an unrestricted free agent and rookie fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin suffered a season-ending neck injury after contributing little (19 carries, 107 yards) in his first season.
The door would certainly be open for Harris, who was the Packers’ lone productive running back in 2012, to have a role. After his promotion to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, Harris carried 34 times for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season, then added 28 carries for 100 yards and two more TDs in the playoffs. He also caught two passes for 17 yards in the regular season and seven passes for 64 yards in the playoffs.
“It’s going to be interesting for people to tune into it,” Harris said of 2014. “Hopefully Starks comes back, hopefully I come back. None of us knows what’s going to go on this offseason. There could be some surprises. Every year there’s some surprises. We’ve just got to bust our butts. Hopefully everyone’s healthy and we’re a force to be reckoned with.”
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