Packers provide 'chance of a lifetime' for Damon Harrison

“Snacks” already making his presence felt in Green Bay

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DL Damon Harrison

GREEN BAY – Damon "Snacks" Harrison has played in one playoff game thus far in his nine-year NFL career, and it happened to be at Lambeau Field.

He's about to tally his second in the same location as the newest member of the Packers' defensive line, and he wasn't 50 words into his first meeting with the Green Bay media when he referred to what's in front of him as "the chance of a lifetime."

The Packers claimed the massive, 6-3, 339-pound Damon Harrison off waivers last week from Seattle. Just a few days after arriving in Green Bay, the veteran run-stuffer was on the field in the regular-season finale at Chicago to help the Packers lock up the No. 1 seed for the NFC playoffs.

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is familiar with Harrison, having held the same position with the Jets back in 2012 when the undrafted rookie entered the league with New York. Pettine is "thrilled" to have another proven, big-bodied defender to bolster the run defense – which already was on the uptick before Harrison's arrival – for the postseason charge.

He played just a dozen snaps against the Bears, and while he graded his own performance as "OK," his teammates saw something more when they reviewed the film on Wednesday.

"He was in on plays," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "He was playing like we know he can play.

"I think that's the exciting thing for a veteran player I would imagine, as you see your career winding down, being able to be a part of something that legitimately can go the distance, it's special."

Harrison thought he'd found that by signing with Seattle earlier this season, an opportunity he couldn't pass up, which led him to forego a planned visit to Green Bay at that time.

The Seahawks became his fourth career team, after the Jets (2012-15), Giants ('16-18) and Lions ('18-19), and he'd only played in one postseason game in his first eight years in the league – the 2016 NFC Wild Card playoff the Giants lost to the Packers.

He'd be headed to the playoffs again had he stuck with the Seahawks, but after moving from their practice squad to the active roster and playing sparingly in six games, he wanted a chance to make more of an impact.

He asked for his release and then gave his agent a short list of teams he was interested in. He turned down several clubs that wanted to claim him, chose Green Bay among those he preferred, and then had a whirlwind few days that culminated in wearing a new No. 98 jersey in Chicago.

"I played in this defense my rookie year and somewhat my first two years, so a lot of it is just trying to reach back in my memory bank and bring it out," he said.

"It's just trying to get a better understanding of the playbook and ways that guys play. You're learning that on the fly, so last week was a little tough, but it was alright."

As for the famous nickname, the story he'll neither confirm nor deny is he got caught with the Jets having Rice Krispies treats in his socks at practice, and the "legend" grew from there to where his mother even calls him "Snacks."

Monikers aside, Harrison appreciates being welcomed by many of his new teammates and already has enjoyed working with and playing alongside fellow interior lineman Kenny Clark. Both Pettine and Rodgers referred to Harrison having a "presence" in the locker room as a veteran player trying to make the most of a late-career chance.

"It's great for depth, but it's also, here's a guy that's an ultimate pro," Pettine said. "He's very conscientious."

That's why Pettine knows the subtle changes to techniques and fighting blocks from what Harrison is more accustomed to won't take long to come around. Not quite getting those down yet is what led to Harrison's lukewarm self-evaluation of his Green Bay debut.

But the big fellow said he still loves the game and feels great physically, so he's all in for a playoff run, especially getting to watch Rodgers from the sideline rather than see him from across the line of scrimmage.

"Bringing in a veteran who's played a lot of football, there's a legitimacy to that person and that opportunity," Rodgers said. "He mentioned after the (Bears) game, it's good to be on the right side of one of these for once. That definitely made me smile and chuckle."

The Green Bay Packers practiced on Clarke Hinkle Field on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

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