FOXBORO, Mass. — For someone who’s hardly seen the field this season, David Harris sure seems to be a popular figure in the New England Patriots’ locker room.
Head coach Bill Belichick has raved about the veteran linebacker’s work ethic and intangibles on multiple occasions. On Thursday, Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots’ best linebacker and one of the defensive leaders, said he easily can envision Harris coaching once his playing days are over.
“Absolutely,” Hightower said. “And I’m not saying just linebacker coach. I’m saying defensive coordinator-type stuff. Coming from two different organizations, back when he was with the Jets, guys know that if there’s one thing about David, he’s a really smart linebacker. I think guys here (saw) that real quick and appreciate it.”
Harris was a mainstay in the middle of the New York Jets defense for a decade before signing with the Patriots this past summer, but he’s been buried on the depth chart all season. The 33-year-old played just seven snaps over New England’s first three games, was a healthy scratch in Week 4 and dressed in Week 5 but never entered the game.
So why does everyone seem to love him so much? It comes down to the ways he helps the team off the field.
“(Harris has contributed) a lot of knowledge,” Hightower said. “When I first came into the league, I watched a lot of him and a lot of (former Patriots linebacker Jerod) Mayo before. And when I got here, still learning from Mayo, we’d see David twice a year. So it’s good to sit down with him. He sat down today, and we talked a lot about football. It’s just great knowing and seeing from a different perspective from a guy who knows and has seen so much and has played great football — to me, one of the best linebackers who’s played in the past couple of years.
“His production’s always been there. But he’s added so much (to the Patriots) — really just knowledge and a different perspective as far as that defense goes in that front seven.”
Still, it has to be frustrating, right? To go from a player who racked up 95 or more tackles in five consecutive seasons to one who can’t get off the bench? Harris currently is fifth on the Patriots depth chart at linebacker, behind Hightower, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy and Marquis Flowers, a special teamer who played just two defensive snaps all last season.
If frustration is there, Harris hasn’t shown it.
“I think that says a lot about him,” Hightower said. “Not just as a football player but as a person, as well. 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.”
Thumbnail photo via Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images