The New England Patriots’ win over the New York Jets on Monday night was not a flawless one, be it in regards to the team’s execution or its ability to leave MetLife Stadium fully healthy. One of the players who went down during the 30-27 win was starting running back Damien Harris, who was hit hard on a fourth-quarter run and remained on the ground afterwards. Harris left the game because of a chest injury and did not return.
The second-year runner, however, was back on the practice fields two days later: Harris was a limited participant when New England started its preparation for the upcoming game against the Baltimore Ravens.
While his status remained unchanged throughout the week, and he was officially listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report due to ankle and chest ailments, Harris sounds confident in his ability to play versus Baltimore. He spoke with reporters during a media conference call, and despite not discussing his injury situation noted that he was preparing as if ready to go.
“To be honest, I’m not really here to talk about that situation. It happened. It’s over with,” said Harris. “I’ve been out here trying to get myself ready to play in this game, and that’s what I’m focusing on. We know we’re playing a good, physical team this week, and I’ve been just trying to do my part in getting myself as mentally ready, as physically ready to be able to play in this game and try to help us be successful and help us try to play our best game as an offense.”
The 23-year-old has taken over the Patriots’ lead running back role in Week 4, after previous starter Sony Michel was sent to injured reserve. Harris, himself returning from IR that week after dealing with a finger injury early on, established himself as a viable threat as an early-down runner: he has appeared in all five games since his return, and is now leading the Patriots’ backfield with 63 carries and 350 rushing yards so far this season.
As he explained on Friday, his professional approach this year has helped him along the way.
“I think that taking care of your body — recovery, treatment, eating, sleeping, rest — all those things are part of being a professional,” said Harris. “I think that’s definitely something I’ve improved between this year and last year. Just overall being a professional football player, and whatever that entails. That’s my job and that’s what I’m here to do.
“It’s a funny quote, but it’s true: Somebody told me once that one of the best abilities you can have is availability. Having the ability to go out there and be available, be ready for whenever you’re needed, whenever you’re called on, that’s part of being a pro; going out there and handling your business off the field just as much as on the field. That way you can stay ready, and stay available.”
Harris has had exemplary albeit limited availability this week, despite the chest injury suffered against the Jets. As a result, his chances of playing against Baltimore appear to look good — which is certainly encouraging news for the Patriots given how integral the former third-round pick is to the team’s offensive operation.
“Damien has very good natural running instincts, most of these guys do,” his position coach, Ivan Fears, said on Friday. “The thing that he does for a guy his size, he runs hard, which is really, really nice. I mean, he runs hard, and his vision is outstanding. He’s going to be a downhill runner. He hits you hard. He hits you fast. That’s the kind of stuff that makes them so attractive.”
It sounds like the Ravens will find out on Sunday just how hard Harris can hit, despite his spot on the injury list.