ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Has Damien Harris played his final game as a member of the Patriots?
It’s hard to imagine a different outcome for the soon-to-be free agent.
New England is deep and young at running back, with Rhamondre Stevenson leading a backfield that, honestly, no longer needs Harris despite how good he is when healthy. Plus, giving large contracts — which Harris might land in free agency — to running backs is viewed by many as bad business.
But Harris, who was drafted by the Patriots in 2019 and has been their top starter for the last three seasons, hopes to return in 2023. The 25-year-old was asked about his impending free agency following Sunday afternoon’s season-ending 35-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
“If they want to have me, I’d love to be back,” Harris said after rushing for 48 yards in the season finale. “But, at the end of the day, I know that this is a business. I know that this organization is gonna do what they feel is best for them. And, at the end of the day, I gotta do what I feel is best for me.
“So, we’ll see what happens. I’m not really worried about that right now. I’m just trying to enjoy this last opportunity to be with my teammates this year. And, whatever happens next year, happens next year.”
Harris became emotional multiple times while speaking with reporters, repeatedly saying how much he wanted to relish his final moments with this collection of Patriots.
“I just want to enjoy this last trip home with these guys for this year,” Harris said. “I’m just so thankful to have shared this locker room with these guys and this organization for the past four years. I don’t know what the next chapter’s gonna be. I don’t know what it looks like.
“But, like I said, I’m gonna do what’s best for me and my family and my situation, and I know that this organization’s gonna do what they feel is best for them also. … We’ll see what happens.”
If Harris indeed is done with the Patriots, he should go down as one of New England’s more talented and productive backs in recent history. The Alabama product battled injuries over the last three seasons but was very good when on the field.
Harris ran for 691 yards in 2020 before racking up 929 yards and a whopping 15 touchdowns last year. In 11 games this season, he compiled 462 yards and three scores.