Belichick says Harris has done all he's asked, but that hasn't resulted in playing time


David Harris has played one more defensive snap through five games this season than undrafted rookie linebacker Harvey Langi. He's played in six more defensive snaps than tight end Rob Gronkowski.

It's safe to say that seven snaps to this point in the season is not what the Patriots were planning on when they signed Harris to a two-year deal this offseason with $1.25 million guaranteed.

A longtime rival with the Jets as the every-down middle linebacker for their defenses, Harris was thought by many to be the type of player who could help take on some of the communication duties shouldered by Dont'a Hightower in recent seasons. That would allow Hightower to spend more time on the edge, where he's proven to be a disruptive pass-rusher and run-defender.

But in training camp Harris did not flash the athleticism to be able to hang with running backs in coverage -- something that was particularly noticeable in joint practices with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia -- and as a result he has found himself on the outside looking in when it comes to the Patriots depth chart at linebacker.

Dont'a Hightower worked his way back into the middle of the Patriots defense on a part-time basis in Tampa, and both Kyle Van Noy (an every-down player this season) and Elandon Roberts find themselves as preferred options over Harris at this point.

Asked during a conference call about Harris' contributions to the Patriots this season, Bill Belichick said, "David's done everything we've asked him to do. 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."

For now, the 33-year-old seems to be more of an insurance option at linebacker since he does not play special teams.

Harris played a season-high four snaps against the Texans after it appeared as though Roberts had to manage an issue with his hand in the fourth quarter (he entered the game with a thumb injury). Harris was inactive for the Panthers game in Week 4, and he did not play in Week
5 despite being in uniform.

In relation to Harris' limited usage, Belichick did not promise more snaps in the future, saying only that the amount a player plays depends on the team's needs for that week.

"We'll keep making the best decisions we feel like we can make every week for the team to help us win," Belichick explained. "All of the players that are here can potentially have a role in that. Based on every game, game plan situations, so forth, we'll try to do what we feel like is best for the team like we always do."

The door isn't shut on Harris to make a contribution to the 2017 Patriots, but unless there's an injury at his position, it's hard to envision a drastic change in his role going forward.

It's fair to wonder if the Patriots will eventually find greater value in making a move and assigning that active-roster spot to a player with a clearer shot at playing time. Especially if linebacker Shea McClellin (currently on injured reserve) is cleared to begin practicing soon and eventually made eligible to re-join the 53-man roster.

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