FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots rookies have been hitting the Gillette Stadium practice fields for a month now, but Tuesday marked the first time they were joined by quarterback Tom Brady.
Brady skipped voluntary organized team activities for the second straight year but reported for minicamp this week. Day 1 of the mandatory sessions was held Tuesday on the practice field behind Gillette Stadium.
So, what was it like for running back Damien Harris, a 2019 third-round pick, to take handoffs and catch passes from Brady?
“It’s special, but he’s my teammate now, so I get to do that every single day,” Harris said. “And I’m fortunate to learn from a guy like that, a guy that’s been through a lot of things and had a lot of success in this program, so he’s a guy that I can lean on and learn from. And I know if I need something, I can depend on him.”
Harris was asked if he experienced an “awe factor.”
“I think anyone would have that kind of awe factor,” Harris said.
The rookie running back caught passes from Brady during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. He’s seen a heavy workload early in spring practices with 2018 first-round pick Sony Michel absent for undisclosed reasons.
Harris was known as a strong pass-blocker coming out of Alabama. He also was the Crimson Tide’s primary ball-carrier over his final three years of college, collecting over 1,000 yards in 2016 and 2017.
Harris will compete for snaps behind early-down back Michel and pass-catcher James White with Rex Burkhead. Both Harris and Burkhead have the versatility to carry the ball, block and catch passes. So, it will be interesting to see how the Patriots divvy up touches in a crowded backfield.
Given Michel’s injury history, it might not be a bad idea to share the wealth on early downs this season. That could mean plenty of opportunities for Harris to play with Brady.