Cornerback conundrum: Al Harris is one of my favorite guys in the Packers locker room, but he was acting a little diva-ish earlier this week.
On Wednesday, coach Mike McCarthy characterized Harris' play as "not as consistent as (Harris) would like," then added that Monday night's game at Philadelphia is "a great opportunity for him to get back on track."
Fairly innocuous stuff, right? Not to Harris.
When that comment was first relayed to Harris by Rob Reischel, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Packer Plus magazine, either it was done so inaccurately or Harris took it the wrong way, because he told a second reporter that he'd been told McCarthy accused him of being the problem in the secondary. Reischel insists that he told Harris that McCarthy had described his play as "inconsistent," and I believe him.
Thus, the third possibility is that Harris, who threatened to hold out this offseason if his deal wasn't upgraded, thought he saw an opportunity to create some melodrama and expedite his contract push. How else do you explain what he said to me?
"If that's the way they feel around here, then maybe I should go somewhere else," Harris said. When I repeatedly told him that McCarthy never said that, Harris said, "That's besides the point. I've seen a lot of 'inconsistent' things going on around here. If that's the way they feel, then maybe I'm not the guy. The trading deadline is coming up (Oct. 17)."
A variation of those comments had run in the Journal Sentinel on Thursday morning, which apparently left the coach none too pleased. Harris, in turn, said Thursday it was a "miscommunication" and that "the guy who wrote that didn't write it right."
"Maybe they wanted to send him over to do a cat pageant or something and he just needed a story," Harris said. "There is no problem. I'm great, man, I'm great; I love my life, I love my job."
I laughed out loud at the cat pageant line -- it's an "Anchorman" reference to the crummy assignment Veronica Corningstone has to cover -- but the reality is that Harris, while not playing that poorly, isn't playing up to the standard he set last season while matching up with and shutting down the opponent's best wide receiver, nor the expectations he's created by talking about his goal of making the Pro Bowl and being underpaid.
It doesn't help to be part of a secondary that ranks 31st in the 32-team NFL against the pass and has permitted 20 pass plays of 16 yards or more after ranking No. 1 in pass defense in 2005.
"They may just be a little spoiled around here from my play," Harris said. He may be right.
Empty at fullback: I don't get what the Packers are doing at the fullback position. First, when William Henderson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 21, they said they were fine with Vonta Leach and the tight ends filling in.
Then, when Henderson came back, Leach was deemed expendable -- despite blocking well in the season opener against Chicago with Henderson sidelined -- and was cut to make room for Koren Robinson on the roster.
Now, the tight ends aren't cutting it as blocking fullbacks, Henderson's blocking -- which has been in decline for years, and understandably so since he's in his 12th NFL season -- isn't up to par, either, so they've promoted Brandon Miree from the practice squad and may start him Monday night against Philadelphia.
Miree may turn out to be a fabulous blocker -- a seventh-round pick by Denver two years ago, he's been around the zone blocking system -- but if you had doubts about Henderson being of starting caliber, why re-sign him this offseason after the Vikings courted him? Why cut Leach and leave him as the only fullback on the 53-man roster for two weeks?
I'll give Henderson this: He took the high road this week, even if he wasn't really happy getting on the on-ramp. After 10 years as the starter, he clearly isn't happy that the coaching staff has decided to take a long look at Miree, who let the information slip during interviews Wednesday that the coaches had told him he might start against the Eagles.
"They're always telling me I'm competing for my job, so it's nothing unusual, nothing different," a visibly bothered Henderson said Thursday. "As a professional, it's supposed to encourage you. And it does. It encourages you to get better - or find a way to meet their approval."
Asked if it bothered him after all he's done for the team, Henderson said, "You know the NFL means 'What have you done for me lately?' So I've got to go out there and show improvement every play. I can't take it as an insult, it's not personal, it's business."
Short yardage: The Packers are at a loss as to why halfback Ahman Green fumbles so much early in the season Four of Green's seven fumbles in 2004 were in the first five games; five of his seven fumbles in 2003 were in the first seven games; and three of his four fumbles in 2002 were in the first two games. Last year, Green only played in five of the Packers first six games, fumbling only once before suffering a season-ending ruptured quadriceps tendon at Minnesota Oct. 23. ... Wondering why the Packers' defense has been so maddening this season? Look no further than explosive plays. Through three games, the Packers have allowed 25 explosive plays on defense -- defined as a run of 12 yards or more or a pass of 16 yards or more -- including 11 last Sunday. For the year, 635 of the 1,165 yards the Packers have allowed have come on explosive plays (54.5 percent). Great time to be facing the No. 1 offense in the NFL, isn't it?
-- Jason Wilde covers the Packers for the Wisconsin State Journal. You can read his stories at the newspaper Web site -- www.madison.com/wsj/home/sports. Wilde also talks about the Packers each morning on "The D-List" and each afternoon on "The World's Greatest Sports Talk Show," on Milwaukee's ESPN Radio 1510 Days / 1290 Nights and Madison's Fox Sports Radio (100.5 FM).
Jason Wilde, a Milwaukee native who graduated from Greendale Martin Luther High School and the University of Wisconsin, is a two-time Associated Press Sports Editors award winner and a Wisconsin Newspaper Association award winner.