Damien Harris

RB Damien Harris Retires At 27

On Instagram today, former Patriots and Bills running back Damien Harris made the announcement that he would be retiring from the NFL. It’s a short, five-year playing career for the 27-year-old from Kentucky, but it’s one he can look back on with pride.

Harris entered the NFL after a four-year collegiate career at Alabama. After sitting behind Derrick Henry as a true freshman, Harris took over lead back duties for the Crimson Tide, rushing for 2,040 yards and 13 touchdowns over the next two years. Increased roles from Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris meant decreased production for Damien as a senior, but he still led the team in carries and yards. He left Tuscaloosa with two rings denoting national championships.

As a third-round rookie for the Patriots, Harris saw very little action behind Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead during Tom Brady‘s final season in New England. An injury to Michel and a new offense led by Cam Newton allowed Harris to take lead back duties in his sophomore season. In his third year, with a rookie Mac Jones, Harris delivered his career-defining season, rushing for 929 yards and an eye-catching 15 touchdowns, all while a rookie Rhamondre Stevenson also got his share with 606 yards and five touchdowns. A bigger role in Stevenson’s sophomore season meant a reduced role for Harris, who was hampered with a hamstring injury early in the season.

His rookie contract over, Harris signed a one-year deal with his first team’s division rival, the Bills. Buffalo brought Harris in to serve the same RB2 role he had played behind Stevenson but with James Cook now taking RB1 snaps in front of him. Unfortunately, in mid-October, Harris suffered an awkward-looking stinger that created a scene immediately reminiscent of Damar Hamlin. While Harris remained conscious, he was ruled out with a neck injury and taken to the hospital for further testing. He was placed on injured reserve and wouldn’t return for the remainder of the season.

It’s unclear whether or not this serious neck injury has anything to do with Harris’ decision to hang up his cleats. Perhaps, in the near future, Harris will disclose the reasons behind his decision, but for now, he used the text in his Instagram post, rightfully, to thank his coaches, trainers, teammates, and family. His post ends with a promising “y’all will be seeing me soon,” perhaps hinting at a future role in coaching or the like.

Bills Place RB Damien Harris On IR

The neck injury Damien Harris suffered in Week 6 will keep him sidelined for an extended stretch. The Bills announced on Friday that the veteran running back has been placed on IR.

As a result of the move. Harris will miss at least the next four weeks. He was hospitalized after suffering a stinger, but initial indications suggested the worst-case scenario had been avoided. Still, the 26-year-old’s absence will be felt in the Bills’ backfield moving forward. Buffalo signed ex-Lions and Jets backup Ty Johnson to the active roster in a corresponding move.

Johnson’s continued presence in the organization led to a Leonard Fournette visit being canceled earlier this week. The latter remains unsigned and his addition would have given the Bills a veteran depth presence at the RB spot, but instead that will now fall to Johnson and Latavius Murray. The Bills are already without pass-catching specialist/returner Nyheim Hines, who was involved in a jet ski accident before the season started.

James Cook has, as expected, seen a major uptick in usage this season, his second in the NFL. The 2022 second-rounder’s snap share sits at 56% through six weeks, more than double that figure from his rookie campaign. Cook will continue to be leaned on with Harris (who has totaled 25 touches to date this year) no longer in the fold for the time being. Murray saw a season-high 12 carries last week when Harris was injured, and he is in line to handle RB2 duties moving forward.

Bringing Harris back will require using one of the team’s seven remaining IR activations. His return will be welcomed by a Bills offense looking to find a rhythm both on the ground and through the air. For the foreseeable future, though, the team will need to consider adjusting its snap share in the backfield with another Cook compliment no longer available.

RB Leonard Fournette Will Not Visit Bills

OCTOBER 17: Fournette will not, in fact be heading to Buffalo today. Schultz notes that the Bills expected to lose Ty Johnson off their practice squad, but since that is not happening, they will not host Fournette for an audition. The latter has still received interest from a number of teams, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports, but he does not have any visits lined up at this point.

OCTOBER 16: After receiving some promising news about running back Damien Harris, who was taken off the field in an ambulance after suffering a “neck sprain” last night, according to NFL Insider Jordan Schultz, the team is still dealing with the fact that they may be without him for a period of time. With Nyheim Hines suffering a season-ending injury before the season even began, this leaves the Bills with only James Cook and Latavius Murray as healthy active roster running backs.

Enter free agent running back Leonard Fournette. Schultz claims that Fournette has informed him that he will be visiting the Bills‘ facility tomorrow. After three years each with the Jaguars and Buccaneers, Fournette has been a free agent since being released by Tampa Bay in February.

Fournette hasn’t been quiet in his free agency, fielding calls from the Patriots, who would end up signing Ezekiel Elliott, and Colts, who found a resurgent break out from Zack Moss. He’s been ready, though, staying in good enough shape to perform at workouts, the newest of which will be in Buffalo tomorrow.

So far this season, the Bills have essentially used Cook as a workhorse, utilizing Harris and Murray to spell Cook for short periods. Murray has proven to be plenty serviceable as a backup running back over the years, but at 33 years old, he doesn’t have quite the same tread remaining as the 28-year-old Fournette.

Fournette could come in and provide the Bills with a true RB2 who can do a bit more than just give Cook a breather. Fournette would have a chance at coming in and actually earning snaps in certain situations. As for the likelihood of this opportunity, Schultz claims that “there’s a good chance (Fournette) signs in Buffalo if all goes well.”

Injury Notes: Harris, Tannehill, Garoppolo, Montgomery

Another scary scene in a Bills‘ regular season game, this time on their own home turf. Shortly before halftime in tonight’s Sunday Night Football game, Bills running back Damien Harris went down after an awkward-looking stinger and laid motionless on the turf, per Alaina Getzenberg of ESPN, requiring Buffalo’s award-winning medical staff to leap into action once again.

Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News reported that Harris was able to give the stadium a thumbs up as he was loaded into the ambulance in the middle of the field, providing a bit of comfort in a terrifying situation. Reports quickly followed that Harris was ruled out for the remainder of the contest with a neck injury but that he had movement in his arms and legs as he was being taken to the hospital for further testing, according to The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia.

While James Cook has shouldered most of the load at running back in Buffalo so far this year, Harris has worked in tandem with Latavius Muray to spell Cook here and there. Harris came into the game as the team’s second-leading rusher in the running backs room. Hopefully, Harris will be able to make a quick and strong return to the field and retake his role in the Bills’ backfield.

Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFL today:

  • Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a right ankle injury in today’s loss to the Ravens in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London. After the initial injury, when a Ravens defender rolled over the back of Tannehill’s legs on a sack, the veteran quarterback attempted to return to the game. He found it difficult to step into throws and subsequently threw an interception. He told the media after the game that he felt he couldn’t be effective with the injury, leading to the entry of backup quarterback Malik Willis. According to ESPN’s Turron Davenport, Tannehill was on crutches after the game with plans to undergo an MRI once back in Tennessee. He missed the last three games of the season last year due to an injury to that same ankle, so there may be some concern about further damage to a previous injury. Despite the early hype, second-round rookie Will Levis has not been active for recent games, leading to the use of Willis. With a bye week coming up, there are myriad possibilities in the quarterbacks room. Tannehill could have plenty of time to heal, Willis could have ample time to prepare, or Levis could use the time to earn the staff’s trust, along with his first start.
  • The Raiders played the second half of today’s win over New England without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after the former Patriot left the game with a back injury. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that Las Vegas chose to “err on the side of caution” with their 31-year-old quarterback, sending him to the hospital mid-game for some precautionary tests.
  • Lions running back David Montgomery was knocked out of today’s win over the Buccaneers with a rib injury, according to Schefter. With Jahmyr Gibbs already ruled out while nursing a hamstring injury, Detroit turned to third- and fourth-string backs Craig Reynolds and Devine Ozigbo. X-rays came back negative on Montgomery’s ribs, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, a good sign that Montgomery may have avoided serious injury to his ribs. If neither Montgomery nor Gibbs are able to return for next week’s trip to Baltimore, expect more of Reynolds and Ozigbo.

Bills RBs Nyheim Hines, Latavius Murray Battling For Roster Spot?

The Bills rushing attack will look a bit different in 2023. Devin Singletary is gone, having left via free agency to the Texans. The front office added former Patriots starter Damien Harris to the mix, although he profiles as more of an RB2 since the organization is ready to go all-in on 2022 second-round pick James Cook.

Cook and Harris appear to be locked in atop the depth chart, leading to an apparent competition between Nyheim Hines and Latavius Murray for the RB3 spot. As Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News noted today, the two veterans may actually be fighting for a roster spot, not just a spot on the depth chart. The Bills intend to give a roster spot to fullback Reggie Gilliam, perhaps leaving only one space for Hines or Murray

Hines would be the more natural fit if the organization is looking for a fill-in for Singletary. The former Bills RB averaged 39 receptions per season over his final three seasons in Buffalo. Harris had 40 total receptions during his four seasons in New England, and the former third-round pick seems primed to be a true backup. Cook provides some pass-catching prowess (21 catches as a rookie), but it seems unlikely that the second-year pro will be a true three-down back.

Hines could provide Josh Allen with another worthy target out of the backfield on third downs. The former Colts fourth-round pick averaged more than 56 catches per season though his first three years in the NFL, and while he saw a reduced role in 2021 and 2022, he still hauled in 70 total catches between the two campaigns.

While Hines has shown an ability to catch the ball, his roster spot could ultimately come down to special teams. The 26-year-old served as the Bills’ primary returner after joining the organization last season, returning a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns. As O’Halloran notes, new wideout Deonte Harty previously was an All-Pro punt returner, and his spot on the roster could make Hines expendable.

Murray would be the odd man out if Hines ultimately makes the team, but the veteran has a good case for making the roster. The 33-year-old would naturally bring some experience to a relatively young running back corps, and he’s also shown to be a worthy replacement starter in a pinch (he’s started at least three games in each of his nine NFL seasons). While Hines is the superior pass-catcher, Murray can also contribute in the passing game, with the veteran hauling in 35 catches just last season.

As O’Halloran writes, Murray is still a valuable player, with the RB most recently collecting close to 900 yards from scrimmage in 13 games with the Broncos and Saints in 2022. If Murray does end up missing the cut in Buffalo, O’Halloran believes the Bills front office should be able to get something for him via trade.

Hines and Murray will likely get an extended look during the preseason, but it seems likely that one of the two will be looking for a new job by the end of the preseason.

Bills To Add RB Damien Harris

MARCH 27: Buffalo has managed to add Harris at just $1.7MM, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Harris will receive $1MM fully guaranteed, per OverTheCap. This deal checks in at slightly less than what Singletary received from the Texans and further illustrates the grim market that awaited most of this year’s running backs.

MARCH 20: Brandon Beane said another running back would be on the Bills’ radar. Shortly after starter Devin Singletary joined the Texans, the Bills are making their addition.

Former Patriots starter Damien Harris will sign a one-year deal with the Bills, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. The former third-round pick played out his New England rookie contract in 2022.

Although Harris did not hit free agency with much momentum, the Bills observed his better work up close in 2021. Harris totaled 15 rushing touchdowns during his third season, when he rushed for 929 yards at 4.6 a clip. The Alabama product will join James Cook and Nyheim Hines in Buffalo’s backfield, which has gone through some changes since the team rolled out a Singletary-Zack Moss duo for two-plus seasons.

Beane said a bigger back to complement Cook would be the likely move, and while Harris (213 pounds) should not be confused size-wise with Derrick Henry, the Patriots used him as a between-the-tackles runner during his two seasons as their primary starter (2020-21). Harris finished with five 100-yard rushing games during his 15-start 2021 season. The most memorable one probably came in Buffalo, when Bill Belichick pulled passes out of his game plan on a windy night. Harris amassed 111 rushing yards on just 10 carries during the Pats’ upset win in Buffalo, and he topped the century mark against the Bills two weeks later — in a loss in Foxborough — as well.

Last season, Harris dealt with hamstring and thigh injuries that cost him six games. He did not play the same role as he had in 2021, however, as Rhamondre Stevenson began to take over as New England’s primary back. The Pats still have Stevenson on his rookie contract through 2024, and they added ex-Jaguars 1,000-yard rusher James Robinson last week. The Robinson addition pointed Harris out of town, and he should have an opportunity to be a regular part of Buffalo’s offense in 2023.

The Bills used Singletary as their primary back for most of his four-year stay. Cook showed flashes late last season and will likely play a bigger part in Buffalo’s run game next season, but Harris should be expected to be part of the equation.

Patriots LS Joe Cardona Done For Year

One of New England’s longest-tenured players is done for the season. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports (via Twitter) that long snapper Joe Cardona has a torn tendon in his foot and won’t play again this season.

The 30-year-old suffered a partial tear in his foot earlier this month, but he still managed to play through the injury in Week 15. It’s uncertain if Cardona made the injury worse by playing, but either way, he won’t be back on the field until the 2023 campaign. Reiss notes that the veteran is expected to be fully recovered by the spring.

Cardona made a name for himself when he became the fourth long snapper in NFL history to be drafted, with the Patriots selecting the Navy product in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. Cardona hasn’t missed a game since joining the organization, appearing in all of New England’s 127 regular season games and 13 playoff games over that stretch. During his time with New England, Cardona has earned a pair of Super Bowl rings. He was also named to the organization’s ‘All-Dynasty Team’ in 2020. Cardona inked a four-year extension with the Patriots in 2018 that is set to expire following this season.

Elsewhere on the injury front, receiver DeVante Parker and cornerback Jalen Mills will both be out again for the Patriots this weekend when they take on the Bengals. Running back Damien Harris, cornerback Jack Jones, and receivers Tyquan Thornton and Jakobi Meyers are all questionable for this weekend.

RB Notes: Jacobs, Patriots, Steelers, Hill

Coming off just the NFL’s 11th performance with 300 yards from scrimmage, Josh Jacobs is not expected to practice much this week. The Raiders running back suffered a calf strain during his monster outing against the Seahawks, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Planning to go through “around the clock” treatment, Jacobs said (via The Athletic’s Tashan Reed, on Twitter) he is not planning to miss any time.

Of course, that expectation will be tested. Calf strains can sideline players for multiple weeks. Jacobs handled a career-high 39 touches in Las Vegas’ overtime win in Seattle, finishing with 303 scrimmage yards. He now leads the league in rushing (1,159 yards) and is making a strong case for a second Raiders contract, despite the team having passed on his fifth-year option. The Alabama alum has stayed relatively healthy during his career, having never missed more than three games in a season. But missing time due to this calf ailment would give Jacobs at least one absence in each of his four seasons.

Here is the latest from the running back scene:

  • The Patriots are not expected to have Damien Harris available against the Bills on Thursday. Harris left the Pats’ Thanksgiving Day game with a thigh injury, and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport notes (via Twitter) that issue will keep him out in Week 13 and potentially for more games. One of several starter-caliber backs set to hit free agency in March, Harris has battled multiple injuries this season and seen Rhamondre Stevenson emerge as New England’s primary back. This certainly points to the former third-round pick needing to find another team to dole out his second contract.
  • Najee Harris also left his team’s most recent game due to injury, seeing an abdominal issue force him to leave the Steelers‘ Monday-night win over the Colts. Harris avoided a major injury, however, according to Rapoport (on Twitter). It is not certain the second-year back plays Sunday, but after he battled a Lisfranc issue this offseason, dodging another notable injury represents a nice break. The Steelers were without rookie backup Jaylen Warren in Indianapolis due to a hamstring injury and used veteran Benny Snell as their top ball-carrier.
  • The Commanders worked out a familiar NFC East back this week, bringing in Jordan Howard. The well-traveled back stopped through Washington for a Tuesday workout, Aaron Wilson of KPRC2 tweets. Former Panthers backup Reggie Bonnafon also took part in this audition. Howard spent time with the Saints this season, playing in two games, but New Orleans released the ex-Chicago and Philadelphia starter from its practice squad earlier this month.
  • Despite using one of their injury activations on Kylin Hill this year, the Packers cut bait recently. Matt LaFleur said conduct contributed to the transaction. “There are standards and expectations that are placed on every member of this team that we expect guys to live up to,” LaFleur said, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “He’s a guy we had high expectations for, and [I] realize he’s in a loaded room, but regardless of your role big or small, we expect guys to come to work and be supportive and own that role to the best of your ability. If you don’t do that, that’s what happened.” This certainly points to the second-year back voicing dissatisfaction with being behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon on Green Bay’s depth chart. No team claimed Hill, who is now a free agent.

Patriots Receiving Calls On RB Damien Harris, S Jabrill Peppers

With a 3-4 record and coming off an embarrassing Monday Night Football loss, it’s been speculated that the Patriots could start selling. While we’ve previously heard that receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne are on the block, it sounds like rival teams are sniffing around at some other players in New England.

According to Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus (on Twitter), the Patriots have received calls on running back Damien Harris and safety Jabrill Peppers. However, the reporter is quick to clarify that the Patriots are not actively shopping the two players. Kyed also passes along that the team has also received calls on receivers Jakobi Meyers and DeVante Parker.

Harris is set to hit free agency following the season. The former third-round pick had a standout season in 2021, finishing with 15 rushing touchdowns. He had 246 yards and three touchdowns through his first four games this season, but a hamstring injury forced him to miss most of Week 5 and all of Week 6. He returned on Monday night but was limited to only three carries. Over that same three-game span, Rhamondre Stevenson had collected 364 yards from scrimmage, so there’s a chance the Patriots are ready to give the second-year pro the full-time gig.

After being limited to only six games last year, Peppers joined the Patriots on a one-year deal. He’s started one of his seven appearances this season, collecting 20 tackles. He’s seen an inconsistent role in New England, with only two of his contests featuring him in more than 40 percent of New England’s defensive snaps. Pro Football Focus has been fond of his limited role, ranking him 29th among 87 qualifying safeties.

The Patriots have a crowded receivers depth chart, so it’s no surprise that Meyers and Parker are now being included in the rumor mill. Meyers had a career year in 2021 with Mac Jones, and despite shaky QB play this year, he’s continued to be New England’s most consistent WR. In five games, Meyers has hauled in 26 receptions for 355 yards and two scores. After being acquired from the Dolphins this past offseason, Parker has topped 60 yards in three games (including an 156-yard outburst in Week 3) but couldn’t hit 25 yards in his other three appearances (including a pair of shutouts).

Damien Harris Facing Extended Absence

The Patriots exited their Week 5 game against the Lions with a lopsided win, but questions about the health of one of their offensive contributors. Running back Damien Harris is expected to miss multiple weeks due to a hamstring injury, reports NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). 

Pelissero adds that further testing is still to be done, but it appears the injury – which forced Harris out of Sunday’s contest – will keep him sidelined for an extended duration. The news marks a significant setback for the 25-year-old pending free agent individually, as well as New England’s ground game in general.

Harris saw only four carries in his rookie season, but has been a steady contributor ever since. His workload increased from 2020 to last season, one in which he topped 1,000 scrimmage yards for the first time in his career. His 15 rushing touchdowns that year ranked tied for second in the league, and led to optimism for further production this campaign.

The former third-rounder has found the endzone three times so far in 2022, and maintained a 4.5 yards-per-carry average, nearly identical to his 2021 figure. However, Harris saw a snap share between 39% and 45% in the first four games of the season, a step back from his usage the two previous years. That was owed to the increased workload given to second-year back Rhamondre Stevenson.

The latter flashed plenty of potential as a rookie, and has continued his career ascent in 2022. With 372 yards on 5.5 yards per tote, the Oklahoma product had begun to take on lead back duties prior to Harris’ injury. Now that he will be sidelined, Stevenson is in line to follow up on the 25-carry, 161-yard day he had against the Lions moving forward. With veteran Ty Montgomery already on IR, the Patriots will likely look to fourth-round rookie Pierre Strong Jr. as a backup.