FOXBORO — Sunday will be strange for David Harris as he returns to MetLife Stadium. It’ll be weird when he’s in the visiting locker room. Then the game will start and he’ll be on the opposing sideline watching the New York Jets and several players he still calls friends.
After spending 10 seasons in the AFC East, this veteran linebacker finds himself on the other side of the rivalry.
“It’ll be strange going into that stadium and being on the opposing sideline, being there for 10 years, but that’s a part of the business,” Harris said. “That’s the NFL. Have to put personal feelings behind you and go out there and try to do your job.”
For Harris, he hopes for a chance to go out and do his job. So far, the 33-year-old’s impact hasn’t been seen on the field.
This year, the linebacker has played in three games, logged seven defensive snaps and one assisted tackle. It’s a far cry for Harris who has been one of the most productive linebackers in the NFL over the last decade. Last year, he made 95 tackles and logged 900 defensive snaps for the Jets. Over the past 10 years, Harris made 1,087 total tackles.
“I’m trying to do everything I’m asked to do and trying to be ready if my number is called,” Harris said. “That’s all I can do as a professional player.”
Although Harris hasn’t been seen on the game field in the last two weeks, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t helped his teammates off the field. Dont’a Hightower says the knowledge that he’s brought has been invaluable and despite the limited playing time, Harris remains positive around his teammates.
“I think that says a lot about him, not just as a football player, but a person as well,” Hightower said. “A younger kid tries to take food out of his kids mouth, 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 name is going to be called. One thing’s for certain, whenever his number is called David is going to be ready.
“It’s not going to be ‘can he still do it’ or ‘is he capable of doing it?’ Everything is there. He’s keeping a positive mindset. I know myself and the younger guys appreciate what he does and what he brings to this team.”
Harris is currently behind Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Marquis Flowers on the depth chart. His role on the field is different this season, but according to Hightower, Harris has been like another coach off the field to the younger players.
“I’m saying like defensive coordinator-type stuff,” Hightower said. I mean, coming from two different organizations back whenever he was at the Jets, guys know that if there’s one thing about David it's that he’s a real smart linebacker. I think that guys here saw that real quick and appreciate it. He’s helped that other waves of guys that are coming in, so for him to come in and learn the playbook as well as he has and still help the younger guys like E-Rob and the second and third year guys in the secondary, so it really helps to have that extra bag of leadership in the back end.”
The last time Harris wasn’t a full-time start was his 2007 rookie season. He still finished with 127 tackles and five sacks. It was during that season where he learned to be ready when his number was called. He says it’s similar this year and despite the playing time, still has enjoyed his time in Foxboro.
“It’s been amazing just seeing how everything works here and just how everybody works hard,” Harris said. “Everybody is dedicated to winning. You always heard different things about the Patriots from the outside, but it’s a lot different once you are actually here and a part of it. Attention to detail is amazing here and I appreciate that.”