Just a couple weeks ago, calling former Jets defensive captain and current Patriots benchwarmer David Harris “injury insurance” sounded like a slap in the face to a veteran with over 150 games under his belt. After Thursday’s gut-punch of news updates that ended in the conclusion that Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower was done for the year with a torn pectoral muscle, “injury insurance” sounds like Belichick 101, always planning 5 steps ahead...
...especially when you factor in the report from Albert Breer today that Hightower’s pec injury dates all the way back to the days of Hightower Watch 2017 in free agency. If that’s the case, then keeping David Harris on ice just in case High’s injury got to the point where he had to bow out and get surgery is...well, the logical way to make sure you don’t get caught with your pants down.
Patriots believe LB Dont'a Hightower has a torn pec, per source. The pec issue was existing, is what caused teams to back off him in March.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 26, 2017
The pec was partially torn by the time he took physicals in March. It's why he failed them, it's why offers were pulled.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) October 26, 2017
This also puts a whole new light on Belichick’s insistence that David Harris has put in the time, put in the work, been a pro’s pro and a great teammate, and has done everything he’s been asked to do, even though you could count all his snaps on the season before last week on both hands.
So, just like when Bill said about Troy Brown playing defensive back in 2004 “We talked about this as an emergency!”, here we are, and according to the Providence Journal’s Mark Daniels, Harris is ready to step into Hightower’s sizable Nikes as best he can.
“You hate to lose a guy like that, but it’s on all of us to step up, myself included,” Harris said. “Injuries are part of the sport unfortunately. It’s always next man up.”
We talked earlier this year about the pint-sized cannonball, Elandon Roberts, potentially wearing the green dot and calling the plays this season, and while that’s probably still an option, Roberts’ let-it-rip style that ends up with him selling out against play-action (among other misfires) is certainly reason to consider giving someone else a crack at the defensive signal-calling. And if that falls to David Harris, he’s feeling good that his preparation and some help from the guys in the locker room have him primed and ready to go.
Again, from the Journal (emphasis ours):
“I think I’m doing good, but you’ve got to ask coach that question,” Harris said. “It felt good to be out there. Just ready when my number’s called. I continue to prepare for that instance.”
This season, Harris grew close to Hightower (the pair were locker neighbors). He said Hightower helped him learn “the nuances to the defense.” Hightower was the defensive signal caller, wearing the green dot on his helmet. If asked, Harris said he’d be willing to do the same thing. He certainly has the experience.
“We have a lot of veterans in this locker room and guys who have played a lot of ball. Myself included,” Harris said. “I’ve seen numerous go down over my career, but Hightower is a special guy in this locker room.”
Forget about “replacing” a talent like Hightower - that’s not happening. If there was ever a time for injury insurance, though, this is a great time to have a player like Harris that’s seen it all in your back pocket.
Or to put it another way, for my fellow nerds that played the Gears of War series, “Support? YOU ARE the support, son!”