Opportunity is knocking for Patriots RB Damien Harris


As a third-round pick a year ago out of Alabama, Damien Harris’ rookie season never really took hold in New England.

A two-time 1,000-yard rusher for Nick Saban’s Tide, Harris barely saw the field last fall for Bill Belichick’s Patriots. After a couple minor injuries in the summer he played in just two regular season games, leading to a mere five offensive snaps with four rushes for 12 yards.

But 2020 is a new year and clearly a new beginning for Harris.

With Sony Michel on PUP to open camp after offseason surgery and versatile veteran backup Brandon Bolden having opted out of the season due to the coronavirus, Harris has hopped up a couple spots on the depth chart early in camp. Two days into padded workouts, Harris has taken advantage with some impressive runs while showing his own versatility with even more impressive catches as he’s shared the practice load with Rex Burkhead.

In a Tuesday afternoon video conference with local reporters, the seemingly always upbeat Harris made his goals pretty clear.

“It’s been good,” Harris said of an active start to his second NFL training camp. “It’s given me an opportunity to improve. That’s what I think is most important – coming in and showing that I can be dependable, I can be competitive, I can play the game at a high level. So, I just want to come in here and improve every single day no matter what is asked of me, whatever coaches need me to do I’m going to go out there and try to do it to the best of my ability.”

Deferring questions about why he may not have played last season and what he needs to do to get on the field this fall to his coaches, Harris sounds like a man who’ll be ready when his number is called. That time should come sooner rather than later. With the former first-round pick Michel missing time and coming off a year in which he averaged a dismal 3.7 yards per carry on a team high 247 rushing attempts, the hierarchy of the competitive backfield is far from fully established.

“I’m not here to self-assess, I’m just here to improve and to continually get better,” Harris said after a couple days of practice roundly praise by the limited media in attendance at Patriots training camp this summer. “So that the coaches will think those kind of things and they can evaluate that. My job is not to evaluate myself or anybody else on the team. My job is to go out there and work as hard as I can to become a better football player.”

After what could best be described as a red-shirt year behind an impressive crop of veteran running backs, Harris admits he had his eyes on his sophomore NFL season as soon as his rookie campaign ended.

“I was definitely excited for my second year,” Harris said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to improve. It’s a great opportunity for me to get better, to continue to learn and develop as a player. So I was definitely excited coming into it. It’s been great being back here with the guys, being with the coaches and getting into the swing of things. It’s exciting. It’s an exciting time. I love being out there working with the guys, working with the coaches. It’s been great so far.”