GREEN BAY – Whether it was Andre Rison in 1996 or Howard Green in 2010, there have been several in-season waivers claims who went on to play a pivotal part in a Packers Super Bowl run.
This season, Green Bay is hopeful Damon "Snacks" Harrison could be the next veteran acquisition to put a team with championship aspirations over the top.
The Packers officially claimed the former All-Pro defensive tackle off waivers from Seattle on Thursday. Since he'd been in the Seahawks' COVID-19 testing pool, Damon Harrison was eligible to practice with the Packers once he passed his physical and could even play as soon as this Sunday in Chicago.
Harrison, 32, has long been regarded as one of the NFL's top run-stuffers. The 6-foot-3, 339-pound defensive tackle has tallied 494 tackles and 11 sacks over 123 regular-season games (111 starts) with the New York Jets, Giants, Detroit and Seattle.
"What we've heard is that he's a really intelligent guy," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said on Thursday morning. "He's going to be a guy who I think can give us a lot in terms of playing the nose. He's a really good run defender and he has been for a really long time. Just excited to get him in the building."
The Packers have been looking to add a fifth defensive lineman to their rotation since Montravius Adams' nagging toe injury landed him on injured reserve in November, and they appear to have found their man in the veteran affectionately known as "Snacks."
Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has firsthand experience with Harrison. He held the same position with the Jets during Harrison's rookie year in 2012.
It was in New York Harrison earned his nickname, given to him by former Jets coach Rex Ryan and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar. While Harrison only played five games that year, Pettine saw the promise in the former William Penn standout.
"He was very entertaining as a rookie. I'll put it that way," Pettine said. "But we knew right from the jump that this small-school guy just had something to him. And obviously that's been proven now for a long time.
"We're excited about having him here and hopefully we can make a run and he'll be a part of it."
Harrison earned All-Pro recognition in his first season with the Giants in 2016 and continued to be a productive run-stuffer during a 1½-year stint in Detroit, including a sack of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay last October.
Harrison sat out the early part of the 2020 season before signing to Seattle's practice squad in early October. He was added to the Seahawks' roster a month later and recorded nine tackles and a forced fumble, playing 59 defensive snaps over six games, before receiving his release on Tuesday.
Packers defensive tackle Kenny Clark saw on Twitter Wednesday night Green Bay had claimed Harrison off waivers and immediately took to his own account to express his excitement for the veteran's arrival.
"(I'm) glad that he's here and I get a chance to learn from him," said Clark on Thursday. "He's been a guy that's been playing at a high level since he entered the league and been one of the best nose tackles to play. So, excited to get a chance to talk to him, pick his brain and play with him."
The defensive front is coming off arguably its best performance of the season during last Sunday's 40-14 win over the Tennessee Titans. Green Bay held All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to just 98 rushing yards on 23 carries, while sacking Ryan Tannehill three times and helping force two interceptions.
As well as the defense has played the run over the past month, the Packers have done it with a short rotation of Clark, Dean Lowry, Kingsley Keke and Tyler Lancaster on the D-line. Bringing in Harrison is almost a callback to the Packers' 2010 Super Bowl push when the veteran Green was claimed off waivers to join Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji on the line.
When injuries have flared up, General Manager Brian Gutekunst hasn't been shy about seeking outside help. He claimed tackle Jared Veldheer and running back/returner Tyler Ervin during the final stretch of last season, and he signed defensive lineman Billy Winn (currently on IR) and receiver/returner Tavon Austin this year.
On the eve of the playoffs, the Packers have done it again with the addition of Harrison.
"I know what he's all about as a player. He's always been a problem to block," LaFleur said. "Obviously Gutey was all over it, and our scouting department, that's a big-time pickup for us, especially this late in the season."
Snapshots of newly-claimed Green Bay Packers DL Damon "Snacks" Harrison.