When does a player who hasn't contributed much become a significant story? There are several ways, and one of them is when he's an established veteran about to face his original team for the first time.
That's why David Harris finds himself a center of some media attention this week. The linebacker, in his first season as a Patriot, spent his first 10 years in the NFL with the New York Jets, New England's opponent this week.
A late offseason signing after the Jets released him earlier this calendar year, Harris was seen as yet another high-profile addition to the reigning Super Bowl champions' roster. Harris, though, has been active in just three of New England's first four games, registering just one assisted tackle (in the opener versus Kansas City). He's been among the seven game-day inactive players the past two contests.
"David's done everything we've asked him to do," head coach Bill Belichick maintained. "He's worked hard, been a great teammate. 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."
Fellow linebacker and co-captain Dont'a Hightower echoed Belichick's sentiments.
"When I first came into the league, I watched a lot of him and [Jerod] Mayo. When I got here, I learned from Mayo and we still played David twice a year, watched a lot of film on him. So, it's good to sit down with him.
"We sat down today and talked a lot about football. It's just great knowing and seeing from a different perspective from a guy who knows and has seen so much and has played great football. To me, he's one of the best linebackers who's played in the past couple of years. His production has always been there. But he's added so much knowledge [to our team] and a different perspective of how that [Jets team] goes."
Harris was long a thorn in the Patriots' side when he lined up in green and white – "They all were fun to play in," he recalled Thursday of his many encounters with New England – so, this weekend's contest might be bittersweet for him. It would mark his first against the Jets since becoming a Patriot, if he sees the field. Belichick was non-committal when asked if Harris' role would increase in the coming days and weeks.
"We'll keep making the best decisions we feel like we can make every week for the team to help us win," he said. "All of the players that are here can potentially have a role in that."
Reflecting on the past decade as a Patriots opponent, Harris offered some insight as to why so many Jets-Patriots contests are close.
"I mean, [it's] a division opponent, so much familiarity with one another. They always come down to the end, most of them. Hopefully, it won't be close this time," he chuckled.
Meantime, Harris has been concentrating on adapting to his new team, and it appears to be going well behind the scenes. Hightower believes Harris has the makings of a future NFL coach.
"Absolutely. I'm not just saying a linebacker coach, I'm saying, like, defensive coordinator… guys know, if there's one thing about David, he's a really smart linebacker. Guys here have seen that really quick and appreciate it. He's helped that other wave of guys who've come in [here]. So, for him to learn the playbook as well as he has and still help the younger guys, even in the secondary, it really helps to have that leadership."