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Harris could return for Packers at some point this year

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Cornerback Al Harris has a "serious" spleen injury that requires a cautious approach, but he hasn't been ruled out for the rest of the season, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday.

"I'm hopeful he'll be back," McCarthy said. "The time frame just hasn't been established."

In the spotlight

With Al Harris out, the Packers' starting cornerback job falls to the untested Tramon Williams. Take a look at Williams' career stats:

Games/Starts: 19/2

Tackles: 25

Passes defensed: 5

Interceptions: 1

Harris was injured in the first quarter of Green Bay's loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. The injury is believed to be a ruptured spleen, a condition which sidelined then-Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms for the rest of the season in 2006.

"It's a serious injury," McCarthy said. "I think that's obvious to everybody. And really, as we move forward, it's a different type of injury. And we will take a cautious approach, and everything we'll do will be in his best interests."

Harris, one of the Packers' top defensive players, won't be able to do any significant physical activity for at least a week and will not play in Sunday's game at Tampa Bay.

But McCarthy also said Harris has sought at least three medical opinions this week and there's a "good chance" he can avoid surgery.

"If Al was standing here, he'd tell you he'd want to play this week," McCarthy said. "That's kind of how he feels."

Harris left Sunday night's game in the first quarter after he collided with Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk. Harris returned two plays later.

But he left again and did not return after tackling Cowboys running back Marion Barber. Harris went to the locker room in the second quarter with what team officials described as cramping. McCarthy said after the game that Harris had blood in his urine and was not allowed to return by the team's medical staff.

Simms ruptured his spleen in a game against the Carolina Panthers in 2006 and had an emergency procedure to have it removed. He missed the rest of the season and returned in 2007, but was inactive for the first five games before being placed on injured reserve.

The Buccaneers cut Simms in August, and he signed with Tennessee this month. Simms has yet to play in three games for the Titans.

Losing Harris for any extended time will be a difficult blow to the Packers' defense. Harris, who specializes in the aggressive style of bump-and-run coverage favored by Packers coaches, went to his first Pro Bowl last season.

Harris and Charles Woodson, despite both being over the age of 30, form one of the NFL's most formidable cornerback tandems. Woodson was effective against Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens on Sunday, but the Packers had a hard time containing the rest of the Cowboys without Harris on the field.

"Anytime you lose guys, it's hard, but you expect other guys to step up," Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said after Sunday's game. "But certainly losing Al, a guy of that caliber, that hurts. Anytime you lose a guy like that, it's not good."

Harris' starting spot will likely be taken by second-year player Tramon Williams.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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