Agent says Harris likely out for rest of year after suffering torn spleen

Updated: September 23, 2008, 12:41 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

The agent for Al Harris told several media outlets in Wisconsin on Monday that the Green Bay Packers cornerback suffered a torn spleen in Sunday night's loss to the Dallas Cowboys and is likely out for the rest of the season.

Al Harris

Harris

Jack Bechta said Harris will see a specialist this week, probably as early as Tuesday, after the initial diagnosis was a ruptured spleen, according to those reports. That visit will determine Harris' course of treatment, whether surgery is necessary and how long he'll be out.

"He tasted blood in his mouth and had some in his urine," Bechta told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "When you have that it's not always connected to the spleen, although the CT scan did confirm there's a tear in the spleen. The next step is to look at everything again and take a conservative approach."

Earlier in the day, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team's medical staff was "just doing scans" on Harris and was "checking for everything." A team spokesman said no additional information was available.

What is the spleen?

• The spleen is a part of the immune system and is located in the upper left side of the abdomen.

• While the spleen is useful, it's not essential. The organ's primary functions are filtering the blood by disposing of old or damaged blood cells and platelets and helping the immune system by killing bacteria and other foreign substances.

• The operation to remove the organ is called a splenectomy.

• If the spleen is removed, certain immunizations are needed to help prevent infections that the spleen normally fights.

-- Source: WebMD.com

While nothing is definitive, Bechta said the odds of Harris returning this year aren't good.

"Any time you have a ruptured spleen, you're not going to take any chances because it can re-rupture and be worse and then you have to have it removed," Bechta told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "If that's the case, then there's always risk for infection. We're going to take a really conservative approach.

"Most doctors will tell a player to forego a season just because of all the downside risk. The conservative answer now from the original [diagnosis], I believe from Dr. [John] Gray, is to shut it down. But nothing is imminent as of yet."

Harris left Sunday night's game with 6:51 left in the first quarter after he collided with Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. He returned two plays later.

But Harris had to leave again later in the series after tackling Cowboys running back Marion Barber -- and this time, he didn't return. Harris went to the Packers' locker room in the second quarter with what team officials described as cramping.

McCarthy said after the game that Harris had blood in his urine and was not allowed to return by the team's medical staff.

"[Harris] said I know I can play, but I better pull myself out, I better go check on this," Bechta told the Press-Gazette. "Once Al told [head trainer Pepper Burruss] he was tasting some blood and had some blood in his urine, [Burruss] said, 'That's it, you're done,' took his helmet right there."

Bechta also told the newspaper Harris seemed to be feeling fine on Monday afternoon and was raring to go.

Packers defensive backs coach Kurt Schottenheimer told the Journal Sentinel he didn't know Harris' status, but he did say the loss of Harris would have a major impact on the team.

"We just hope for the best for Al," Schottenheimer told the Journal Sentinel. "He brings such a spirit to the team, the way he plays. If you give him a job, you know that job is going to be taken care of and you can go to the next challenge. He brings such a winning performance to you all the time. I just hope he'll be all right."

Harris could be facing a road similar to Chris Simms. Simms ruptured his spleen in a game against the Carolina Panthers in 2006 and had an emergency procedure to have it removed. He missed the rest of the season and returned in 2007, but was inactive for the first five games before being placed on injured reserve.

The Buccaneers cut Simms in August, and he signed with Tennessee in September. Simms has yet to play in three games for the Titans this season.

If Harris, who is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance, is done, Tramon Williams would get the start opposite Charles Woodson.

Despite both being over the age of 30, Harris and Woodson form one of the NFL's most formidable cornerback tandems. Woodson was effective against Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens on Sunday, but the Packers had a hard time containing the rest of the Cowboys' offense without Harris on the field.

"Anytime you lose guys, it's hard, but you expect other guys to step up," Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said after Sunday's game. "But certainly losing Al, a guy of that caliber, that hurts. Anytime you lose a guy like that, it's not good."

And Harris isn't the only member of the secondary who's hurting.

Already missing strong safety Atari Bigby because of a hamstring injury, the Packers also had to handle a back injury to fellow safety Nick Collins during Sunday night's game.

And Woodson continues to play through a broken toe, toughing it out on game days but skipping most or all of practice during the week. Woodson said Sunday night that his toe was "hurtin'," and that the Packers faced a difficult week with so many injuries in the secondary.

"It's a tough week, but this is what we're paid to do," Woodson said. "Regardless of injuries and what hurts on the guys, you've got to get it right to get ready for next week."

McCarthy said Collins has a lower back contusion, but did not provide a time frame for his return. And he didn't seem certain Bigby would be back this week.

"I don't know," McCarthy said. "You know how hamstrings are. It's different with all of them. You can scan them, you can look at them, and get all of the information. Every one of them is different, so we'll see how he responds. He's been a quick healer in the past, so hopefully."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.