Long, bumpy road pays off for Harris

Long, bumpy road pays off for Harris
November 30, 2012, 9:00 am
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Ryan Harris was supposed to be a starter in the NFL.

Last season, he entered Eagles’ training camp as the expected starter at right tackle. Then, he needed surgery for a herniated disc.

The injury ended his short tenure in Philadelphia and most of his 2011 season. He was picked up by the Broncos for the last two playoff games of the season but didn’t play.

Harris started 34 games over three seasons for the Broncos from 2008-2010 but after reaching an injury settlement with the Eagles, was out of a job, looking for work.

“It’s been a long road but it makes it all the more sweet to be here now,” Harris said. “A lot of times in life, whatever you have to do to get to your ultimate goal, it’s worth it at the end. Right now, it’s looking like all the cobblestones in the path have been worth it.”

It was hard, but he’s moved past his hard time last year.

“I really don’t think about it anymore,” he said. “I’m focused on the present now and having a good time now and being here with these guys and just enjoying this experience.”

This Sunday, Harris will start at right tackle for the Texans as starter Derek Newton deals with a knee injury that has caused him to miss practice this week.

It will be Harris' first start since the 2010 season.

“I feel comfortable with what I’m asked to do and I’m happy to be there,” Harris said after practice on Thursday, unwilling to talk specifically about the possibility of starting. “I’m ready to play my role as the team dictates.”

Starting on Sunday won’t be as big of a change as one might think. Harris actually played 70 snaps (89 percent) against the Lions after Newton injured his knee and has been in a rotation all season long.

“He’s picked [the offense] up extremely well,” left tackle Duane Brown said. “He hasn’t been here that long but he knows it like the back of his hand and we have a lot of confidence in him to hold down that right side. He’s a seasoned veteran and has played a lot of football against great competition so we have a lot of faith in him.”

Harris actually played under Texans offensive coordinator Rick Dennison when the two were in Denver, which has helped his integration into the Texans’ offense.

While Harris will likely start in the right tackle spot, rookie Ben Jones (out of Georgia) has slowly stolen away the right guard spot from Antoine Caldwell. Caldwell has actually missed practice this week with a hamstring injury. Caldwell and Jones have split time all season but if Caldwell is out, Jones should have increased snaps with the relatively green Brandon Brooks as the backup.

“Ben’s a good dude,” Harris said. “I can’t understand some of the southern lingo he has but he’s a good guy. One of the many guys here who makes playing football fun.”

And finally, after signing with the Texans on Sept. 1 after being cut by the Broncos, Harris is having fun.  
“There were other teams that were interested and other teams that wanted me but my agent and I talked and this was the best fit,” Harris said. “We had no idea how extremely successful this team would be but it was a good fit.”