Damien Harris did not hit the ground running in the NFL.
Harris, a third-round pick by the New England Patriots in 2019, was limited to just two games in his rookie season, with both appearances coming in garbage time. A crowded running-back depth chart made it tough for Harris to see the field, as Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead missed just a combined four games in 2019.
Despite spending effectively the entire campaign on the sideline, it doesn’t sound like Harris came out of his debut season discouraged. The Alabama product reflected on Year 1 in the NFL on Thursday in a conversation with Patriots.com.
“The biggest thing for me last year was learning as much as I could,” Harris said. “Everybody’s path is different. I focused on learning as much as I could and learning from the older guys in the room. There’s a lot of experience in that room. Any opportunity to improve physically or mentally that was my mindset all year.”
Of course, de-facto red-shirt seasons for running backs aren’t out of the ordinary in Foxboro. Both White and former Patriot Shane Vereen saw little game action as rookies before becoming key cogs of the offense as well as Super Bowl standouts.
It remains to be seen whether Harris’ role in New England changes this season. But with second-year pro Jarrett Stidham the likely new starting quarterback, the Patriots very well could favor the ground in 2020, which could open up some touches for Harris.