Packers need Harrell

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
My colleague Paul Kuharsky wrote Thursday about Houston defensive back Dunta Robinson, whose impending return from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list brought to mind a similar situation in the NFC North.

Like Robinson, Green Bay defensive tackle Justin Harrell is eligible to begin practicing Monday. After two offseason back surgeries, Harrell, the Packers' first-round draft pick in 2007, told reporters in Green Bay this week he has fully recovered and is ready to play as soon as the team needs him. Conceivably, Harrell could return as early as Oct. 19 against Indianapolis.

(Once the Packers activate him from the PUP, they officially have a three-week window during which they must add him to the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve.)

Suffice it to say, the Packers could use Harrell's services. The loss of defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins has left the team with only three full-time defensive tackles -- Ryan Pickett, Johnny Jolly and Colin Cole. Green Bay also is thin at end; Jenkins' replacement, Michael Montgomery, likely will miss Sunday's game at Seattle because of an ankle injury.

"I've done everything I can to make sure that when the six weeks is up I can hopefully start playing," Harrell said. "That was my main motivation. With the injuries we're having and the depth problems, it'll be good for me to get out there and try to take some reps off these guys."

Harrell has been an enigma since the Packers made him the 16th overall pick of the 2007 draft. He played in only three games as a senior at Tennessee because of a bicep injury, and as a rookie last season he managed appearances in seven games. When healthy, the Packers believe Harrell can be an everydown disruptor in the interior of their defense.

Harrell said he has been undergoing rigorous workouts: "Everything within the rules" of the PUP list, which prevents contact drills.

"I'm getting excited," Harrell said. "It's been a long six weeks. I didn't want to start the season off like this, but it happened and I'm just trying to make the best of it. Now that the window is about to get open, we're about to see what happens."