Few things have impressed me as much so far in 2010 as Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris and the You Tube videos of his injury rehab. Besides being a fantastic idea to let fans in on some great behind-the-scenes moments, could there be any better endorsement for Al Harris, the man?
When Harris went down with his injury during the 49er game, the whole Packers defensive dynamic changed, with Jarret Bush and Brandon Underwood suddenly being pressed into action. I wrote about it at the time, and how it would limit what Dom Capers would be able to do for the rest of the season.
It actually started right after Harris went down. As I wrote at the time, “Two plays after Harris went out, Capers blitzed Underwood and Woodson. The result; touchdown to Vernon Davis over the top on a vertical route, covered man-to-man by Clay Mathews with too-late help from Jarret Bush. After the game, Capers said he decided to stop calling for pressure packages at that point to keep Woodson exclusively on Vernon Davis.”
As we know now, the pattern would continue the rest of the season, with Capers’ hands being tied by not having the personnel to scheme the way he wanted to.
It could easily be said that the injury to Al Harris cost the Packers a real shot of advancing deep into the playoffs. The trickle-down affect of his absence was even greater than I imagined at the time. We all tend to focus on the major event and don’t really think enough about the peripheral changes that result and the sometimes dire consequences that evolve.
Up until that 49er game, Al Harris had only missed four games in his 13 year NFL career. Harris is a strong believer in the mind’s power to heal the body and plans on playing well into his late 30s. And he certainly doesn’t lack for confidence. Only two hours after suffering that season-ending injury, he swore to his agent that he’ll be back in 6 months. He was already formulating a rehab plan in his head and aggressively promising a 100% recovery.
The reality of the situation, however, is that this was a catastrophic, possibly career-ending injury to Al Harris. He did considerable damage to the lateral side of his left knee – torn anterior cruciate ligament, torn lateral collateral ligament, torn Iliotibial band and hamstring. Packers team physician Patrick McKenzie, who performed the operation, told Harris that if there had been any previous damage to the knee, he would have advised Al to call it quits.
But since the knee was in good shape previous to the injury, Al could soldier on. Harris is a driven man, always looking to prove the doubters wrong, and never wanting to “leave money on the table.”
A month after the first surgery, the knee had tightened up severely. Harris went in for a second procedure where he was put under so the doctors could stretch his knee and break up the scar tissue. After that, the rehab would commence.
It started with simply learning to walk again. Then undergoing a series of resistance exercises to improve the knee’s range of motion. That’s where the famous towel came in.
You see it in this first video, where Al uses a “bite towel” to muffle any howling, screaming or expletives, and that’s just when he’s on a table trying to bend his knee a little further than it wants to.
By the time you get to video 3 (week 3), Al’s knee is really being pushed harder in the gym. In the video, Harris is asked why he wants to come back. “I have 2 more years left on my contract and I’m a man of my word, I live by principles. I have to fulfill that part of the deal.” He then pauses and smilingly says “and you can’t leave the money on the table.”
In video 7 (week 7), Harris’ knee shows a much improved range of motion and he’s able to execute a series of footwork, change of direction and positional drills. Amazing progress, but in his own words, the knee is still only at 50% strength.
I highly recommend watching all seven of these videos in order, ( see them here ) and you’ll get a great look at the week-by-week progress being made and the incredible work ethic Al Harris has. Harris hasn’t wavered from his 6 month recovery prediction. I’m still doubtful that he can accomplished that, but then again, I’m just the type of guy Al Harris wants to prove wrong. I hope he can.
As the song you hear in the video says; stay tuned, the proof is coming soon…
Jersey Al Bracco is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com. You can find more of Jersey Al ’s articles on several sports web sites: NFL Touchdown , Packers Lounge , Packer Chatters & Bleacher Report .