The New England Patriots announced the signing of veteran running back Raymont Harris to a two-year contract Monday afternoon. In a related move, the team also released running back Terry Allen.
Harris, a fifth-year back who had his best seasons with Chicago, played most recently with Green Bay. Though Harris missed last season while he recovered from an injury, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick expects the 6-foot, 230-pound Harris to add a physical presence to the running game.
'Raymont is a good running back. He's a tackle-to-tackle, tough runner," Belichick said. "He is always moving and falling forward. He's a good, tough, hard-nosed back who will run inside and stick it up in there."
Though Belichick will still look for ways to improve New England's ground attack, he did say he hopes Harris will take over the lead back role.
"He's had that role before in his career, and he's done it well," Belichick said. "He's had an injury problem in the past, and that's obviously why he's available in this situation. He plays a physical style, and he's a tough guy and a smart guy. Hopefully that injury bug won't bite him again."
Drafted by the Bears in 1994, Harris has started 38 of 51 games in five seasons. He has gained 2,473 yards and 16 touchdowns on 671 carries for a 3.7 rushing average. His best season was 1997, when he ran for 1,033 yards and 10 touchdowns on 275 attempts. That season Harris started 13 games, but a broken bone in his leg late in the year ended his season early.
In 1998 Harris signed with Green Bay. Despite being hampered by aftereffects of the leg injury, he played in eight games, including three starts. Harris gained 228 yards on 79 carries.
In other moves, the team released Allen, who started the final 13 games of the season at running back. In his only season with the Patriots, Allen ran for a team-high 896 yards and eight touchdowns on 254 carries.
The Patriots also announced that they will send at least four players to NFL Europe to get more playing experience. Wide receiver Sean Morey, linebacker Marc Megna, and defensive linemen Garrett Johnson and Noel Scarlett will all take part in the NFL Europe season. Morey and Megna spent time on the active roster at the end of the season, but all four spent the majority of the season either on the practice squad or out of the league.
Belichick said that backup quarterback Michael Bishop was not asked to go to Europe. Belichick felt it would be more helpful to have Bishop closer to home in effort to get him better acquainted with New England's new offensive schemes that will be implemented.
"Michael Bishop was in one system in college, then he learned another system here last year," Belichick said. "If we were to send him to Europe, he'd be in another system. Then he'd have to come back prior to training camp and re-learn another system. That would be four systems in less than two calendar years."