Camp chat: Kwame Harris

If Kwame Harris is supposed to be feeling some heat this summer as he enters the final season of his contract with the 49ers, he's not letting on. In fact, the amiable veteran's enjoying life and his football career more than ever. Here, in a candid and refreshing interview, Harris discusses a spectrum of topics about the challenges he faces on and off the field in a region that he now calls home.

Q: What are your impressions of your new competition at right tackle, first-round draft pick Joe Staley?
Harris:
He's good. He's going to good, too. He's made the transition really well. But I was reading a quote in the paper the other day, it was like, when somebody's chasing you, it makes you run faster, right? I like that. I think that speaks volumes right there.

Q: But you kind of know what it takes to hold onto that position, right?
Harris:
I think it's always been beneficial to me to always have somebody on my coattails. I think that's always a way to stay talented, to stay competitive and to stay sharp as a team is to bring in competition from the inside. Like I said, he's good and he's going to make us all better. He's going to continue to push me, and he also provides us really, really good depth on the line. I have nothing but good things to say about him.

Q: You've started every game for the 49ers the past two seasons. How do you feel about the fact that Staley's even here, that the team would use a first-round draft pick to bring him in?
Harris:
Part of it's like … I've been here some years now, and you expect that that job is kind of yours and it's kind of locked up. But competition is good. Having someone chase you will make you better. I think it's a good thing that he's here, actually. It brings depth to us. It's going to make us competitive, and it's just one more set of eyes out there breaking down the defense, looking at our competition, doing all those things that we need to get better. I know he's here to play the position, I know why he's been brought in here. But in terms of like being fearful for my job or anything like that. No, it's like I just can go out there and bust my ass every day and do what I have to do, and it's really the only thing I'm in control of, and I feel pretty confident about that.

Q: What are specific things that you feel you need to hone in this training camp?
Harris:
Just really picking up pass protection. I think statistically last year we weren't where we wanted to be on third downs and I think part of that has to do with protection up front. I think that falls on all of our shoulders. I think it falls on my shoulders. So that's going to be a constant point of emphasis for me as long as I'm in this league. I love playing football and I love protecting the ball, and I also love running the ball. I think that's where a lot of my passion lies, but at the same time, third-and-long, you're not handing it off most of the time. So that was a point of emphasis for me coming into this camp, just like developing all of the intangibles that it takes to be competitive, and be competitive as a team.

Q: How can you get better in pass blocking?
Harris:
Just consistency. Just doing it right all the time.

Q: How close do you feel you are to having a complete game as an offensive tackle?
Harris:
I feel like all the tools are there. I feel like the ducks are lined up. But like I said, it's about consistency. I think you'll find that among most linemen. It's just about going out there and doing it right all the time, doing it when you're tired, doing it in the first quarter and doing it in the fourth quarter. Just being as consistent as you can be and not having any mental lapses. That's a point of emphasis for me. But I don't think that's specific or special to me.

Q: Is your back 100 percent?
Harris:
It feels fine. We went in there and we took care of it … the marvels of modern medicine. It's good. I got a little shot and had lots of rehab, and it was good. If you took a cross-section of O-linemen around the league, I think you'd find a lot of interesting things going on down there. Right now, it's fine. They're not going to hold me out of any practices. It flared up and it hasn't returned. I had a bulging disk, and all sorts of people get it.

Q: This has been a pretty good first week of training camp for you hasn't it?
Harris:
Yeah, it's been fun. It's been fun to get back into it. It's a man's work out there. Training camp is intense, it's fun, it's nice to be back here with all these teammates building solidarity, building that camaraderie. And it's nice to be playing football again. It gives you a place to put in all that tension, all that anxiety, all that build up rage after being out of the game for a year. I knew it was time to get back to playing when I started driving a little bit more aggressively than I should.

Q: You're living out here year round now, right?
Harris:
Yeah, this is home for me. I live out in the South Bay. I love California, I love the Bay, I love our fans. It's God's country out here. And I think that makes a difference. I think it makes a difference when you invest in the place that you play. You're make it your home and you own it. I think people appreciate that. So it's nice. It's not a hard place to be won over by.

Q: We're you concerned at all when all those trade rumors were swirling around earlier this year?
Harris:
Someone mentioned to me that going into that free-agent year is kind of like going into that rookie year. It's really challenging to you. There's a lot of uncertainty, there's a lot of anxiety. You're future is kind of up in the air. I'm really more taken to worrying about what I can control – things on the field and in the weight room and stuff. I know it's cheesy, I know it doesn't sound cool and everything and it's a little bit cliché, but really it's been a way for me to stay level, just go out there and bust my butt and do the things that I can do. And what happens, happens. I believe that it all works out for the best. I think you end up where you're supposed to be and life puts you where you should go.

Q: Do you put anything into the saying about playing for a big payday when you're going into your contract year?
Harris:
I certainly end up thinking about that. Like, it will be a big year for me, it will be a way for me to financially to help myself and the people close to me. But there's just no way you can play for money. There's no way you can use it to inspire you. You just have to find a place to lock your passion onto. And it can't be money. Especially in this league where nothing's guaranteed really, and things are kind of day-to-day in some situations. I think about it, but I certainly don't think about it daily or even weekly, or even bi-weekly.

Q: Do you get angry about some of the perceptions out there?
Harris:
Yeah, it can be tedious and it can be trying to kind of pay attention to all the stuff being said, on both sides of it, positive and negative. But what are you going to do? You just go out there and do your job the best as you can, and that's it. You don't get into any verbal sparring matches with people. You'll always be the one looking like a madman, the one who lost his composure, regardless of what was said to you. It's not keeping me up at night, but I think it makes me play a little bit better. I think I can funnel that into performance sometimes. I try not to read to much of it, you know?

Q: When all is said and done, isn't the bottom line that you are where you are, a starting tackle in the NFL who has held onto his position. Doesn't that say it all?
Harris:
Certainly it does. I think it says something about what I've done that last couple of years and it says something about what the coaches believe in. I mean, those are the only things that you can really put your confidence in – what you do, what your peers think and what the coaches think.


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