Whether there is an official date and ceremony to formally commemorate that acknowledgement doesn’t matter to him, he’s just glad he made the formal request with the franchise.
It’s been almost 3.5 years since Harris played his final game with the Packers – Nov. 22, 2009 – a freakish incident when his knee buckled in the south end zone at Lambeau Field. He would never play another down with the Packers, though he fought through a brutal rehab that offseason. Though he missed playing in 2010, the Packers recognized his many years of contributions by presenting him with a Super Bowl ring.
Today during a teleconference with Wisconsin reporters, Harris, who is now coaching the defensive backfield with the Kansas City Chiefs, said that his experience in Green Bay was special:
“It was (just) important for me to retire as a Packer. Just over my career I had an awesome time, but the better part of my years were in Green Bay … it was just important to me to retire as a Packer. I had a great experience in Philadelphia, great experience in Tampa and everywhere else I played, but Green Bay is a special place to play football.”
And play he did in Green Bay.
His physical style and confidence endured him to Packers fans throughout his time in Green Bay.
During his seven years with the Packers, Harris started 102 games, had four sacks, 14 interceptions, which he returned for 233 yards and two touchdowns. He had 87 passes defensed and two forced fumbles. He also had 269 tackles and 31 assists.
In all, he played 14 seasons in the league after being selected in the sixth round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Being drafted out of Texas A&M-Kingsville, Harris spent the first season of his career on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, before heading to the Philadelphia Eagles for five successful seasons. He was traded to the Packers in 2003.
He didn’t miss a game with the Packers for the next six years until he ruptured his spleen in 2008 and then suffered that serious knee injury that fateful November day in 2009.
In fact, it was the injuries late in his career that finally caught up with him.
“I knew I was on the clock. Your body can only take so much. I pushed it to the limit for so long and I was so fortunate and blessed not to miss a game. I looked at it as God telling me, ‘OK, it’s time to turn the page.’ I didn’t have any problems struggling to say, ‘Do I want to play?’ I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and that’s the path I went with.”
Getting into coaching was something Harris knew he wanted to do. He had spent time helping to coach his son, Al Jr., and then interned with the Miami Dolphins before finally catching on with the Chiefs this spring after they hired Andy Reid, Harris’s head coach in Philly.
“This [coaching] is what I know, and this is what I have a passion for. I didn’t want to wait around, I wanted to jump right into it. I thank [Miami head coach] Joe Philbin for giving me a shot to intern last year with them to really see if it was what I wanted to do. And I think he saw and everybody else saw that this is what I really wanted to do.
“I reached out to Andy [Reid], I called to congratulate him, and I kind of let him know what I was thinking. He let me know what he was thinking and we went from there.”
So, Al Harris moves on with this new phase of his life with new enthusiasm and the knowledge that he will be forever known as a champion in Green Bay.
He always gave everything he could while on the field. In fact, he said that it was his efforts that endeared him to fans across the league, especially the Packers fans he enjoyed so much.
Here’s a quote you will love:
“The one thing you don’t want to do is you don’t want to leave the game and think that you still had something left in the tank. When you’ve emptied your tank, you’re at peace with yourself. I emptied my tank.”
Thanks, Al. We know it … and we appreciate it.