Damien Harris is a key cog in the New England Patriots’ offensive machinery. Serving as the Patriots’ lead running back, the third-year man is ranked first on the team in touches (177), yards from scrimmage (838) and touchdowns (9) through 13 games this season.
Harris twice departing New England’s win over the Buffalo Bills last Monday night due to a hamstring injury was therefore a big development for the team. His status heading into the final four weeks of the regular season remains unclear as of Tuesday morning, but he is apparently making sure to put himself in the best possible position moving forward.
Harris, after all, spent the Patriots’ Week 14 bye rehabbing at the team’s Gillette Stadium facility.
“I can tell you this about Damien: if there’s any way to find a way to get on the field to play, that’s what he’s going to do,” running backs coach Ivan Fears said during a media conference call on Monday. “He’s working hard. He’s been here all weekend. He’s taken full advantage of the bye week to get himself as much as possible ready for practice.”
Harris’ hamstring issue cut short a strong performance against the Bills. At the time he left the game for good in the third quarter, he had already amassed 111 rushing yards on 10 carries — including a 64-yard touchdown run.
Naturally, the Patriots’ bye came at an opportune time for Harris. With the Patriots not playing in Week 14, their players were given the weekend off: they were not required to check into the facility between Thursday and Sunday. The running back took a different approach, however, and stayed in the area in hopes of getting back to full strength quickly.
But while Harris put in the work to ensure a quick return to the field, Fears pointed out that the team will take a patient approach.
“We’re going to give him as much time as we can to see if he can make it,” the veteran assistant coach said. “All I know is that boy’s working hard. Seeing him in here on Saturday, seeing him in here on Friday, I’m really excited about his opportunity and his chances. But, you never know until he really starts putting the grind in on practices and see what happens.”
The Patriots will hold their first practice of Week 15 on Tuesday afternoon. In case Harris is unable to partake fully in the session, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson is the next running back in line.
The fourth-round draft pick already filled in once for Harris, and he looked very good: in Week 10 against the Cleveland Browns, Stevenson carried the football 20 times for 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. On the season, he has amassed 100 carries for 429 yards and three scores.
Ideally, however, the Patriots will have both Harris and Stevenson available against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.