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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