Last week, the Massachusetts state championship football games were held at Gillette Stadium and on Friday the cameras captured Patriots Mac Jones and Damien Harris taking in some of the action. For Harris, it was a nice reminder of the pure joy that exists for high school players.
"Seeing those guys out there doing what they love, having a good time competing with their boys and playing for a state championship at Gillette Stadium, it was great to be a part of that," said Harris, checking in after the Patriots Saturday practice session. "It was great to watch some great football out there with a lot of great players. It's great to see those kids out there taking advantage of this great game that we love so dearly and that we spend so much time and effort playing ourselves, giving it our all."
Harris played in his 11th game last weekend, setting a career-best in his third season as he's managed to miss just one game while posting eight touchdowns. But he's had to do it without teammate James White, who was lost early in the year with a hip injury.
Despite White's season ending on IR, he's still been invested in the Patriots season, continuing to offer his leadership and example even if he is no longer always with the team.
"The leadership that he provided and all the things that he's done for this organization, with the person that he is, the leader he is, the teammate and man that he's been, none of that stuff has gone away," said Harris. "Although he's not here physically we know he's with us every single day, we talk to him almost every day, especially every game day as running backs. James is still that same leader, that same guy that's a mentor to all of us. Unfortunately, he's just not here with us face-to-face. He provides the same energy, the same focus, the same mentality, the same leadership and I think that's been crucial to how we approach the game."
This week they're approaching as big a game as they've faced all season long. The Buffalo Bills and their home-field advantage will pose a tough test and provide a barometer for how the AFC East stacks up right now in early December.
"It's always an honor to play on Monday night," said Deatrich Wise. "It's one of those games where you're the only game on TV and it's super exciting but also at the same time, I'm looking forward to this game and we're all behind it and we're ready to go out there and play hard."
"We know it's going to be an intense atmosphere against a great team with great players, great coaches and great scheme, so we've got to go out there and play our best football, it's a simple as that," said Harris.
Neither Kyle Dugger or J.J. Taylor appeared at Patriots practice on Saturday, while Dont'a Hightower and Ronnie Perkins were also not spotted during a brief access period. Hightower was a late arrival to Friday's session and has been on the Injury Report with an ankle injury. It's possible he was getting a veteran's day off with the Pats getting in four sessions this week. It would appear that Dugger is unlikely to clear COVID protocols in time for Monday's contest.