If Todd Bowles and David Harris cross paths this Sunday at MetLife Stadium, expect the meeting to be as wry and reserved as the New York Jets head coach.
"Well, we're not going to kiss and go on a date,” Bowles joked in his Wednesday press conference, via NewYorkJets.com. “I’ll say hi.”
The Jets said bye to the 33-year-old Harris on June 6 after 10 seasons, 154 games, 1,087 tackles, 35 sacks, 31 pass deflections and six interceptions. And the move left the 2007 second-round pick out of Michigan “blindsided.”
But Harris, who spent his final two seasons in East Rutherford under Bowles, will be back to visit as a member of the New England Patriots this weekend.
He’ll be wearing No. 45 instead of No. 52 – if he’s in uniform for it.
Since joining Bill Belichick’s quarter of the AFC East on a two-year, $5 million pact with $1.25 million guaranteed, Harris has joined the defense for a total of seven snaps. The veteran linebacker has been a healthy inactive for one game and a DNP for another, and has logged one tackle on a depth chart featuring Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and core special-teamer Marquis Flowers.
No true on-field role has been secured by Harris, a 147-game starter with New York. Not in the kicking game, the nickel or the dime. Not often in the no-longer “base” defense, or in the goal-line and short-yardage situations, either. He’s been uncalled-upon insurance. And yet, Harris’ current head coach feels he’s also “done everything” he’s been asked to do since signing on June 21.
“He's worked hard, been a great teammate,” Belichick told reporters on his Tuesday conference call, per Patriots.com. “Yeah, I couldn't have asked for him to have any better attitude or any more cooperation than we've had from him. He's been great.”
Bowles’ sentiments fall along the same lines, even though he doesn’t find it “surprising” Harris has taken a backseat in New England due to the “good football players” around him, and even though he hasn’t spoken with the ex-Jets captain since things went the way they did four months ago.
“It ended awkwardly but my feelings about David don’t change at all,” Bowles said. “David was a great leader when he was here. Obviously a class guy, great football player, great person. His work ethic was outstanding. You don’t get those guys that come around often – David is one of those guys, personally, to me. He’ll always be missed.”
Starting inside linebackers Demario Davis and Darron Lee have lessened the longing to this point, combining for 672 snaps, 78 tackles and 2.5 sacks through New York’s first five games. They’re the present and foreseeable future. But the pregame and postgame pleasantries with a member of the Jets’ past will be worth monitoring regardless on Sunday.
“I don't think there's going to be time for no Dear Abby meetings on the football field,” Bowles added of Harris. “No offense.”
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET.