BOSTON (CBS) — Considering how much the Patriots defense has struggled so far this season, and how banged up they have been at linebacker, it’s a surprise that David Harris has yet to establish a significant role. But the former Jet is still finding ways to help the team off the field.
Defensive captain Dont’a Hightower sees the 33-year-old Harris as a future coordinator with his wealth of knowledge and leadership ability.
“Absolutely. I mean, I’m not saying just linebacker coach. I’m saying like defensive coordinator-type stuff,” Hightower said on Thursday when asked if Harris would make a good NFL coach. “I mean, coming from two different organizations back whenever he was at the Jets, guys know that if there’s one thing about David it’s that he’s a real smart linebacker. I think that guys here saw that real quick and appreciate it. He’s helped that other waves of guys that are coming in, so for him to come in and learn the playbook as well as he has and still help the younger guys like E-Rob and the second and third year guys in the secondary, so it really helps to have that extra bag of leadership in the back end.”
Harris has only seen the field in three of the Patriots’ five games so far, but that hasn’t taken away from what’s been an enjoyable experience for him so far in New England.
“It’s been amazing just seeing how everything works here and how everybody works hard,” Harris said, via NESN’s Doug Kyed. “Everybody’s dedicated to winning. Just, you always heard everything about the Patriots from the outside, but it’s actually a lot different once you’re actually here and part of it. The attention to detail is amazing here, and I appreciate it.”
Hightower has been impressed with Harris’ selfless nature as he does what he can to help young linebackers like second-year player Elandon Roberts, who made an impact in a limited role (23 snaps) in last Thursday’s 19-14 win over the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. But he’s also keeping himself sharp for if and when Belichick calls upon him to contribute on the field.
“I think that says a lot about him. Not just as a football player but as a person, as well,” said Hightower on Harris. “You can take it as younger guys trying to take food out of his kid’s mouth or whatever, but David doesn’t see it as that. He’s taking it as a Patriot. He’s taking it for what it is and what it’s worth.
“It’s a long season. You never know what’s going to happen or when his number is going to be called. One thing is for certain, that whenever his number is called David is going to be ready. It’s not going to be ‘Can he still do it?’ or ‘Is he capable of doing it?’ I mean, everything’s there.”
Bill Belichick wasn’t quite as detailed, but was no less complimentary of Harris when asked how the linebacker has fit in with the team.
“Good,” said Belichick. “David’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, works hard, smart player, great kid.”
Harris’ behind-the-scenes help with the defense hasn’t exactly translated to the field, where the Patriots have allowed the third-most points per game (28.4) in the NFL through five weeks. There’s still a long way to go, but the group took a step forward last weekend and Sunday presents a good opportunity for them to take another against Harris’ former team.