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Hughes: Thoughts on Beck, Al Harris

first_imgHave you ever been minding your own business, just you and your thoughts, when all of a sudden a song plays – on the radio or just randomly from a computer – that totally captures your thoughts?At one point Monday night, when I was sitting in The Badger Herald office working with InDesign, the eclectic musical artist known as Beck all of a sudden could be heard emanating from a nearby computer.The tunes were that of “Broken Drum,” off of the easy-listening Guero album. It’s a song about saying goodbye to a friend. Immediately upon hearing Beck sing so slowly, amid the weary guitar and synthesizer, a clear picture was painted in my mind (if you have your iPod or iTunes ready, I highly recommend playing it as you read on).I see you there/Your long black hair/Your eyes just stare/Your mind is turning.When I heard that, it was clear to me and everyone else in that room that for those four minutes and 30 seconds – just that one time – Beck was actually singing about Green Bay Packer fans saying fare-thee-well to Al Harris (and not the girl that Beck’s probably singing about in all other circumstances).Harris, the dreadlocked cornerback caper that every Packer fan loved to love, was released Monday to his and our own amazement – a casualty of roster building. General manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy decided they no longer had a place for Harris, a 35-year-old veteran on the cusp of returning from a devastating knee injury a year ago.Was it necessary? Sure. As Harris treaded the road to recovery, Tramon Williams evolved into a reliable, playmaking defensive back in his stead while rookie Sam Shields burst out of his shell as a nickel back against Dallas.You could make a case that it was a bit rash, though. With Pat Lee, Brandon Underwood, and Jarrett Bush all that’s left to fill in any injury absences that might surface through the rest of the season, you begin to weigh the benefits of keeping around one of the most physical and experienced backs in the game.But sadly, that’s not how life in Green Bay is, and to think the team wouldn’t stick to its guns this time around is just a mistake. Thompson’s always thinking about the future. He wants Lee, Underwood and Bush to develop just as Williams did. Harris would’ve taken away from that.The move makes sense, but this transaction still marks the departure of one of Green Bay’s most beloved players over the last decade. He played a significant role in helping the Packers be a winner for eight years and in shaping the team’s image of the 2000s. Nevertheless, his performance over those years in Wisconsin and the fanfare that came with it will immortalize him in Packers lore.Green Bay acquired Harris from Philadelphia in 2003, a place that, over the last couple years, became known for producing an abundance of excellent pass defenders just like the city produces delicious Philly cheesesteaks.He proved you didn’t have to be a ballhawk in order to be an elite defensive back in the NFL. In eight years with Green Bay he snagged just 14 interceptions, never exceeding three in one year but never short on league-wide respect. He was named to the Pro Bowl twice and also garnered a second-team All-Pro selection.He received those accolades by turning opposing wide receivers into rag dolls. One time I think I remember seeing him carry a limp wide receiver back to the line of scrimmage with his mouth, like a cat catches a mouse. His physicality was unmatched, and Harris was, in my eyes, one of the hardest working players in the league. He probably still is.He terrorized human beings just as the titular creature of the 1979 film “Alien” did. In fact, he looks a lot like the alien too.That abusive style of his landed him more than a fair share of penalties, but it also landed him a team record 28 passes defensed in 2004, and 108 over the course of his Green & Gold career. He made his opponent work for every catch.During the 2007-08 season, in a big road game against Dallas, I remember watching Terrell Owens trying to block Harris as a harmless rushing play went down the other side of the field. Owens quickly glanced at how the play was developing when the 6-foot-1, 190 pound Harris, not but arms length away and with no momentum, hurled his hands into the chest of the 6-foot-3, 224 pound wide receiver. Owens fell harder and faster to the ground than when the anvil met Wile E. Coyote’s head.That’s the kind of player Harris is. Never a moment off.And who could forget the time Harris made Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck say to himself, “Oh, shit,” in that 2004 playoff game? On the heels of Hasselbeck announcing to Lambeau Field that he was going to “take the ball and score” in overtime, Harris jumped the route and ran down the sideline and into the end zone with one arm tucking the ball away and the other pointing one finger skyward. It instantly became one of the most memorable Packer moments in decades.It’s sad that I, and probably many others, can’t even remember Harris’ last game as a Packer. I had to look it up – it was November 22 of last year, when Green Bay hosted San Francisco. Harris gave up a long pass for a touchdown in that game, even though Michael Crabtree clearly pushed off in the end zone.And now, with Harris gone, the only beloved familiar face of the 2000s that remains is Donald Driver and perhaps Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Green Bay truly has a new identity now. There’s no more Favre, Green, Franks, Freeman, Sharper, Rivera, Whale, Gbaja-Biamila or Harris.The Packers have now truly donned a new identity for a new decade behind the faces of Rodgers, Matthews, Jennings and Collins.It’s almost becoming a clich?, but the NFL is indeed a business. So it goes. And here, in some of Beck’s last verses, we again picture Harris – even if we had to slightly change one of the words.Your setting sun/Your broken drum/Your little dreads/Never forget you.Elliot is a junior with an undecided major. How bummed were you to hear Harris was leaving Green Bay? Where did he rank among your favorite Packers? Send your thoughts to ehughes@badgerherald.com.last_img read more

De Gea Error Gifts Chelsea Advantage in Race for Top Four

first_imgShare this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegram A mistake by goalkeeper David de Gea gifted Chelsea an equaliser as Manchester United’s hopes of playing in next season’s Champions League were dented at Old Trafford yesterday.With United leading through Juan Mata’s goal against his former club, De Gea spilled Antonio Rudiger’s 30-yard attempt for Marcos Alonso to level shortly before the interval.It was a costly error by the Spaniard, whose form has come under scrutiny in recent weeks, although De Gea did come to his side’s rescue deep in stoppage time to deny Gonzalo Higuain a dramatic winner. Up until Chelsea’s equaliser, United had been in control yet they remain sixth in the table, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with two games to play, after a third successive league game without a win.In a competitive game, both teams suffered injuries.After Rudiger was forced off in the 64th minute, United defender Eric Bailly, who was making his first league start since 3 February, was helped off six minutes later.With two games of the season left – and United’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League now out of their own hands – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is facing a dilemma regarding his goalkeeper.The United boss had to defend De Gea before this game because of the Spaniard’s shaky form.He was culpable for at least one of Manchester City’s two goals in United’s midweek derby defeat at Old Trafford, having been at fault for Lionel Messi’s second in the 3-0 defeat at Barcelona in the Champions League on April 16.“He’s for me been the best player United have had for the last six or seven years,” said Solskjaer ahead of Chelsea’s visit. “He has been absolutely outstanding – going through tough patches is part of a footballer’s career and David will be fine.”But De Gea was anything but fine as Rudiger let fly from 30 yards with Chelsea’s first shot on target two minutes before the interval.It looked a routine save for a player of De Gea’s ability, but the ball spilled from his grasp and Alonso reacted quickly to tuck home his first Premier League goal since 18 August.His save to deny Higuain in the dying moments, with the Chelsea forward clean through, saved United from defeat but De Gea’s inconsistent form remains a worry.United had Sergio Romero on the bench against Chelsea. The Argentine has not made a Premier League appearance since 13 May 2018 when he kept a clean sheet in a 1-0 win against Watford.It remains to be seen whether he will be called into action before the end of a disappointing season in two weeks time.With Tottenham losing at home to West Ham on Saturday and Arsenal losing heavily at Leicester earlier on Sunday, this result means none of the teams placed between third and sixth won over the weekend.Five points separate Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United with 180 minutes of the Premier League season remaining.For United, they will hope the teams above them keep dropping points as they look to avoid missing out on a top-four spot for the third time in four seasons.last_img read more