Hurt Packer Harrell backing buds in big game

Hurt Packer Harrell backing buds in big game
Hurt Packer Harrell backing buds in big game

Justin Harrell
Though the Green Bay Packers don’t boast of an official cheerleading squad, the team will certainly have one loud supporter Feb. 6 when Super Bowl XLV kicks off.
And while injured defensive end Justin Harrell — a Westview product and former Class 2A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year — can’t attempt any sort of stunts, he certainly has made it known he’ll be cheering his Packer brethren on — whether it be in Dallas at the game or from home.
“I went up there the first week of the playoffs and got a chance to see the guys,” Harrell, who was shut down for the year after he tore the ACL in his left knee during the team’s season-opener against Philadelphia, told The Messenger in a phone interview from his residence near Nashville. “They know that they have my complete support.  I’ve been trying as hard as I can to show my backing from behind the scenes and not get in their way.”
That said, Harrell, the No. 16 overall pick in the 2007 draft, is disappointed that he won’t be able to play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on football’s biggest stage.
“Any injury is difficult,” said Harrell, the son of retired Goodyear associate Edgar and Jessie Harrell of Martin who has appeared in just 14 regular-season games in his three years in the league. “The last couple of years have been extremely rough. I finally got past my back injury but, unfortunately, hurt my knee. I’m disappointed that I can’t share in it (from a player’s standpoint).
“I couldn’t be happier for the team, though. I know all the hard work they put in and I can’t help but to smile about their success. These are guys that I’ve practiced, sweated and cried with. They know how much I’m behind them, especially the defensive linemen I worked side-by-side with.”
Harrell did tell The Messenger his Super Bowl plans are still up in the air and that he may watch the game from home rather than make the trip to Dallas due to a multitude of obligations at home with his wife Barbie and the two children in their home — Brooklyn, 5, and five-month-old Bronx.
“Right now, it’s about 50-50 if I’m going to go (to the Super Bowl) or not,” Harrell said. “I’ve got a lot of responsibilities here. I’ve got a 5-year-old daughter in kindergarten and my wife’s going to school.
“I’m going to have to sit down and talk it over with her before I make a decision of whether I go or watch from here.”
Whether at home or on the Dallas sideline at the Super Bowl, Harrell did want to make his love for both his Green Bay teammates and the Packers’ front office personnel known.
“It’s been a long time coming,” the Martin native said. “Every year, this team has been so close.
“Going into the season, there was a lot of hype and talk about us. This team has overcame a lot of injuries and that shows the character of this coaching staff and how good of a team Ted Thompson (the Packers’ general manager) has put together.”
Harrell is currently rehabbing his injured knee in Middle Tennessee under the watch of many of the same sports medicine personnel utilized by sidelined Titans’ players.
The current timetable — four months after surgery to repair the torn ACL — for Harrell’s healing includes running in four weeks.
Harrell said the medical staff overseeing his progress hopes to have him ready for a gridiron return at the start of training camp.
Harrell is under contract with the Packers through the 2012 campaign.
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at kcoker@ucmessenger.com.

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