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Love for the game keeps energizing Patriots running back Damien Harris going into his fourth NFL season

Related: With his ‘trial run’ over, Rhamondre Stevenson is eying a bigger role in the Patriots offense

NFL: JUL 29 New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New England Patriots’ 2019 draft class saw some notable departures this offseason, but Damien Harris is still standing heading into his fourth year in the league. The former third-round draft pick again project as a valuable member of the team’s running back rotation, and as a leader within the entire offense.

While his future is uncertain — he is entering the final year year of his rookie contract — Harris is not worried about looking ahead. His focus is on the here and now, which means the Patriots’ training camp that was kicked off earlier this week.

Even though he has been through the routine before and might therefore be in a position to take a business-as-usual approach, Harris noted after Friday’s practice that his enthusiasm remains unchanged.

“Going into Year 4, it’s pretty crazy. I didn’t expect it to go by this fast. But I’m fortunate because I’ve been here for a decent amount of time now, and I’m kind of leaning into a little bit of a different role now,” he said.

“I just like to come out here and be my best. I don’t count the days or anything like that. I just like to come out here and play football.”

The 87th selection in the 2019 draft, Harris has served as New England’s top running back for the last two years. In 2021, he had his most productive season yet: appearing in 15 of 18 games, he carried the football a combined 211 times for 959 yards and 15 touchdowns. He furthermore caught 19 passes for 139 yards to end the season as one of just two Patriots players to cross the 1,000-yard mark (alongside wide receiver Kendrick Bourne).

While his on-field play speaks for itself, his contributions off it are no less valuable. Harris has become a tone-setter in the running back room, and with James White remaining on the physically unable to perform list is the current elder statesman on the practice fields.

Unsurprisingly, he keeps his energy levels high.

“I just love what I do, it’s as simple as that,” he said. “Every morning when I wake up I feel so blessed and so fortunate to be able to come out here and play the game that I love, and do what I dreamed of when I was eight years old the first time I ever touched a football. That’s where my energy and my enthusiasm comes from, just the love of the game. I love my teammates, these coaches, this entire organization.

“I feel very fortunate to be a part of this organization. That’s just where I get all the energy from. I just love what I do, I love who I do it with, and every time I step on this field I feel fortunate to be in this position. I’ll always have that energy, I’ll always have the juice, and I’m always going to feel this way because I feel so lucky, so fortunate to be out here.”