Harris is out 'at least' three to four weeks, but will resume conditioning Monday
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that Harris, who suffered a serious spleen injury Sunday night, could return to the team before the midpoint of the season.
"I would say it's going to be at least three to four weeks," McCarthy said of a timetable for when Harris might be ready to return to the field.
Harris has been ruled out for Sunday, when the Packers will play at Tampa Bay, putting an end to a streak of 83 straight starts since Green Bay acquired him in a trade with Philadelphia in 2003.
Harris' injury occurred in the first quarter of the Packers' loss to Dallas when he collided with linebacker A.J. Hawk on a running play. Harris left the game but returned two plays later.
He left the game for good, however, after tackling Cowboys running back Marion Barber. Harris went to the 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.
Initial fears that Harris would miss the rest of the season and his playing career could be in jeopardy were tempered earlier this week. Harris underwent tests and sought multiple opinions from specialists.
McCarthy said Friday it was his understanding Harris' spleen wouldn't need to be surgically removed.
"Injuries like this go back to a personal nature," McCarthy said. "You're just glad it's not anything that could be life-threatening or as serious as it possibly could be."
Instead, Harris will have a chance to let the spleen heal on its own.
"The thing that we know for sure is we've had to totally shut him down for seven days," McCarthy said. "So, he'll start probably Monday morning with some form of conditioning, and it'll just progress as we move forward. There will be some tests that are done along the way. I don't have an exact time frame for you."
Teammates welcomed the news that Harris could be playing again soon.
"Oh, that's a break because Al brings so much to the defense," safety Atari Bigby said. "He's a lockdown corner. So, anytime you have a corner like that in the game, it definitely takes the pressure off of everybody else."
Bigby spoke with Harris a day after he sustained the injury. Bigby said Harris had mixed emotions.
"Of course he doesn't want to be out, but he felt like he's not going to be out the whole season," Bigby said. "He feels good. He knows his body. So, hopefully, he's not out the whole season."
The Packers will try to compensate for the absence of Harris, who was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time last season, with a trio of young players.
Pat Lee, a second-round draft pick this year, likely will be activated for the first time to serve as the dime back.
"You don't ever want to have players injured, especially you don't want to have your star players injured. But it's also part of the game," McCarthy said.
"It's important for the younger players to realize they have an opportunity. They've had their opportunity to learn from two veterans that have played a lot of football, that play that style of football very effectively. It's their time to put it to use because we need them as a team to perform."
Following a course of action the previous two weeks, Woodson didn't practice the entire week to rest a broken right toe. He is probable to play Sunday.
McCarthy said Woodson's insistence on playing every week with the injury, which he suffered in the Sept. 8 opener, interferes with the healing process.
"As far as the bone improving, it's obviously going to take a lot longer than a normal fracture because he keeps playing on it," McCarthy said. "I don't know if he's staying about the same or slightly improving, but I know he's really uncomfortable [after a game] until at least Wednesday."
Besides Harris, the Packers also are expected to be without Bigby on Sunday. He is listed as doubtful on the injury report.
Bigby didn't practice this week as he recovers from a left hamstring injury that kept him out of the previous game.
"It's disappointing. I'm a safety, and I love to play the game," Bigby said. "Whenever I can't play, I'm feeling pretty down."
Aaron Rouse is set to start again in Bigby's place.
Nick Collins, the Packers' other starting safety, is probable for Sunday after he left the last game with a bruised back.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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