With the addition of 4-time Pro Bowler and 2016 Super Bowl champion Chris Harris Jr. at defensive back, the L.A. Chargers defense is shaping up to be one of the deepest in the league, when it comes to experience and talent.
Harris Jr. joined L.A. Weekly writers Evan Lancaster and Isai Rocha during the latest episode of Riding the Bench Podcast to talk about the upcoming season.
The former Denver Broncos superstar shared his thoughts on playing football during the COVID-19 pandemic and his eagerness to get settled in Los Angeles. Harris Jr. says his focus is currently on training and preparation, but he’s mainly looking forward to getting some face time with his new teammates — and rightfully so.
With defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III, along with safety Derwin James and cornerback Desmond King, the L.A. Chargers defense is looking outright scary.
“I’m excited. Other than when we had the No Fly Zone, this is the most Pro Bowlers I’ve played with on a secondary,” he said. “I feel like our Nickel packages is going to be one of the best — when you have [LB Kenneth] Murray, [Safety] Derwin James and me in the inside, it’s going to be tough for people to mess with us.”
In 2019, Harris finished with 44 solo tackles, and 1 interception. Bosa recorded the 9th most sacks in the NFL with 11.5 in 2019, just one fewer than his career high of 12.5 sacks in 2017, on top of his 47 tackles.
Ingram III recorded 7-sacks and an interception in 2019, matching his 2018 totals.
Harris will also be in the presence of familiar company on the sidelines, as Chargers defensive back coach Ron Milus was Harris’ first coach in the NFL.
“Luckily, I got my first coach that I got in the league, Ron Milus, that’s with the Chargers, and he’s making it very comfortable.”
As Harris enters his 10th NFL season, he shared his thoughts about the evolution of the league, and how it’s changed for better or worse, since his arrival.
“I can’t really say it’s really changed too much, it’s been harder on me being defensive back, just the way they changed the rules,” he said. “Especially on the defensive side, they’re good for the health reasons. But on the defensive side, it’s harder for us we can’t touch receivers we can barley hit the quarterback, so they make our job a lot harder.”
As the start of the NFL season gets closer, there is still uncertainty about the concept of playing professional sports during a global pandemic. While all players will endure unprecedented circumstances, this season will also be a first for Harris, who is father of three girls, and will not be traveling with his family.
“Guys are excited to play, but we definitely want to know that there are safety precautions in hand,” he said. “It’s a real issue. I definitely thought about it just because I’ve accomplished a lot already, but to not put the pressure on my kids — I don’t want to put them at risk.”
If anything in 2020 is predicable, it’s to expect the unexpected. For now, the NFL will begin without fans in the stands, just as Major League Baseball and the NBA have done. While the aspect of playing inside fan-less stadiums doesn’t excite Harris, he said great growth comes from uncomfortable situations.
“It’s going to suck. It’s going be just like practice. But that’s just how it is in 2020. You just have to get used to abnormal situations — that’s just one, not being able to play in front of fans,” he said. “But, I know y’all be tuned in.”
The NFL is expected to test more than 3,000 players and staff for COVID-19 on July 28.
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