Say this about Graham Harrell: He made his NFL debut a memorable one. Too bad it's a memory he'll try to expunge from his brain.
Green Bay was leading New Orleans 21-17 in the third quarter and moved inside the red zone, looking to add to the lead. It seemed the Packers were primed to score a touchdown when a face mask call on the Saints gave the Packers an automatic first down at the 1.
Then Aaron Rodgers started reaching for his eye, and all heck broke loose for the Packers.
On the face mask penalty, Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins got his hand inside Rodgers' face mask deep enough to poke him in the eye, which requires a tremendous amount of bad luck for Rodgers.
Rodgers couldn't clear his vision, so he had to go down to a knee while the trainers had to come out. That meant Harrell had to go in. Backup quarterback is a huge area of concern for the Packers, but all Harrell had to do was come in and hand off to Cedric Benson on the goal line. What could go wrong?
Harrell has patiently waited for his moment to officially appear in a NFL game. The former Texas Tech quarterback spent 2009 in the Canadian Football League, worked with the NFL's Browns on a tryout basis in rookie minicamps in 2009 and 2010, and then later in 2010 he hooked on with the Packers as the third-string quarterback to Rodgers and Matt Flynn. Flynn moved on to Seattle in the offseason, and as Rodgers was on the sideline trying to see straight again, Harrell was going to officially become an NFL player. He worked hard for this moment.
Then Harrell botched one of the easiest assignments he'll have, stumbling and losing the football as he attempted to hand it off to Benson:
The Saints recovered the fumble, and took the ball right downfield for a touchdown to take the lead. Rodgers was back on Green Bay's next play, but for a while it looked like that turn of events might lead to another gut-wrenching loss for the Packers.
The Packers rallied to win in the fourth quarter, despite the officials' best efforts to stop them for a second straight game, which kept Harrell's gaffe from becoming a much bigger deal in Green Bay this week. The Packers sent out Rodgers to take a knee at the end to kill the clock, not risking sending Harrell out again. Hopefully Harrell will get another appearance as an NFL player, and hopefully he'll have something more positive to remember afterward.
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