FOXBORO, Mass. — David Harris has spent the first seven weeks of this season in an unfamiliar position.
After hardly leaving the field for the past decade as the New York Jets’ starting middle linebacker, Harris has seen a precipitous drop in his playing time since joining the New England Patriots as a free agent.
The 33-year-old has played just 26 total defensive snaps through seven games — the fifth-fewest of any Patriots player who has taken a snap on defense this season. The four who have played fewer? Marquis Flowers (24 snaps), Harvey Langi (six), Geneo Grissom (three) and Rob Gronkowski (one).
But that soon could change. Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower suffered a torn pectoral muscle Sunday that will sideline him for the rest of the season, opening up an opportunity for a player lower on the depth chart to seize a larger role.
That very well could be Harris, who, despite his lack of playing time, has been a favorite of head coach Bill Belichick’s since the veteran arrived in Foxboro this summer.
Want proof? Here are some of the positive quotes Belichick has offered about Harris this season:
After Harris played a combined total of three snaps in his first two games with the Patriots: “David is a very experienced player, and I think he brings a lot of positives to our team. We’ll see when those opportunities come, but I’m sure that they’ll be there.”
After Harris dressed but did not play in New England’s Week 5 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: “He works hard. He’s been a great teammate. I couldn’t have asked for him to have any better attitude or any more cooperation than we’ve had from him. It’s been great.”
After Harris started and played a season-high 19 snaps in last Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons: “David Harris gave us some plays tonight, so it’s good to have him there. … As always, I think David works hard and is very well prepared and did all of the right things that we would want him to do from an assignment standpoint. He gave us some good plays, was in on a few plays, handled the communication in the front well. We’ll see if we can build on it. We’ve got a lot of good play from a number of guys and he’s certainly part of that group.”
On Friday, one day after news of Hightower’s season-ending injury broke: “David, you get about the same from him every week. He works hard. He’s very professional. He’s always engaged and always in tune with what you’re doing. He doesn’t miss anything. If you tell him the same thing multiple times, he hears it and tries to do it. He might make a mistake on it like we all do, but then corrects it and understands it. He’s a football guy that’s got a lot of experience. Very into the game, understands situations, understands all the things that we’re doing and that we ask him to do. He’s got a lot of experience, and he’s as professional as anybody in that locker room.”
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images