Life as a veteran free agent receiver isn’t always pleasant in New England. There have been many that have come through Foxborough over the years, some with rather impressive resumes, but past success hasn’t always translated to an instant rapport with Tom Brady.
Maurice Harris is hoping to buck that trend. Harris by no means would represent the higher end of the free agent arrivals. He’s not a Super Bowl star like Torry Holt or Reggie Wayne nor is he an outgoing diva highlight reel like Chad Johnson. But based on some really early feedback, Harris might be ready to contribute in his first year in New England.
The media has been present for three practices including the last two days as part of minicamp. Harris, a sturdy 6-3, 200-pounder, has been noticeable in every one. The most recent work has featured plenty of reps with Brady, alongside Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett in three-receiver sets.
“It’s good to get the experience and the repetitions,” Harris said after practice on Wednesday. “The best thing is being out there and being able to go through it in real game-type situations and simulation-type things just to get the feel of things. Obviously I have a lot of learning to do and improving but it feels good to be out there getting the reps.”
Although the work is in shorts and T-shirts with a competition level not quite at a fever pitch, Harris has done well to take advantage of those chances. He’s worked inside and out and made several strong catches, mostly cutting across the middle where he’s shown strong hands while dealing with plenty of traffic.
Harris credited both Edelman and Dorsett, the only two Patriots wideouts with any notable experience in the Patriots system, for helping with his transition process, both on and off the field.
“We have a great group. We have some veterans and some young guys and we can feed off each other and help each other,” Harris said. “We have Jules who’s played for a while, Dorsett has been around a while and I think we can learn from each, communicate and perform.
“Each day is a learning process. I’m picking up on thins here and there. There’s a lot of learning but the experience I’m getting on the field and in the meetings is good.”
“I feel pretty good about where I am. Phillip and Julian have helped out a lot in terms of the communication part and just trying to get everybody caught up so we can all perform to the best of our ability.”
After opening practice working with Brady and the offense in a simulated two-minute drill, Harris closed it by making a couple of grabs from Brady as music blasted in the background. Much of his work came from the slot, where the big-bodied Harris says he’s right at home.
“I did it in the past. I’ve done it in college also so I feel comfortable,” Harris said of the slot work. “A lot of people don’t think taller receivers are supposed to be in the slot but I feel comfortable all over the field so wherever they want to put me I’ll try to go and do it.
“I feel pretty good outside and inside. It really doesn’t matter to me.”
Harris will be a player to watch once the pads come on next month, but based on the early returns it looks like the coaches may have some plans for the former Redskins wideout. With a depth chart that has plenty of questions after Edelman, N’Keal Harry and Dorsett, the opportunity for Harris certainly exists.