Heading into the 2008 NFL Draft, question swirled around Arkansas defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. He tore his ACL before his senior season and was arrested on a drug charge shortly thereafter. Yet he still managed decent numbers on the field, flashing the game-changing potential NFL teams salivate over.
The 6-3, 307-pounder showed good burst off the ball and was stout at the point of attack. When he wanted to be, Harrison was as dominant as any tackle coming into the league. Yet there were concerns about his desire, as he often took plays off. The Chicago Bears, though, ignored his off-the-field issues, as well as his lack of discipline on the gridiron, and selected him in the third round of the 2008 draft.
What they saw was a player that had not reached his ceiling, who had the potential to be special. They thought he could play the crucial 3-technique in their Cover-2 scheme and were willing to take a risk on his character issues.
At first, all was good. His rookie season, Harrison was a member of the defensive line rotation and posted 28 total tackles and 2 sacks. The team was hopeful his progression would continue into the next season.
DT Marcus Harrison
Yet in the 2009 training camp, Harrison showed up almost 20 pounds overweight. The team placed him on the physically unable to perform list for a few days, basically as a punishment for his laziness in the offseason. The coaches, still enamored with his potential, gave him another chance to succeed, even going so far as to start him nine times that year. He rewarded the team with 24 total tackles and 1 sack.
Harrison again came into training camp out of shape in 2010. He could not finish multiple practices due to the heat – amazing for a player who grew up in Arkansas. It was about that time the coaching staff began to lose faith in the player many felt had first-round talent coming out of college. He played in just five games last season, racking up a paltry 3 tackles.
At this point, Harrison is so far buried on the depth chart it will take an all-world training camp to revive him from the dead. The staff has expressed concerns about his desire to be a productive NFL player and obviously do not feel he's part of the future, as evidenced by the recent selection of Stephen Paea.
The disturbing thing about Harrison is he still has loads of talent. When it comes to pure skill, no other defensive lineman on the team can match him. He's strong as an ox and deft on his feet. If motivated, he could be as dominant as any interior lineman in the game.
Yet what can a staff do to motivate a player that is seemingly indifferent about his role on the team? When you look at his history, it's hard to see anything but a player doing the bare minimum to earn a paycheck. The prospect of earning a second contract, worth millions of dollars, isn't enough to get him off the couch and in the weight room.
To say he's on his last leg is an understatement. Yet, if he can change his attitude and re-dedicate himself, the opportunity is there for him to be a contributor. With Tommie Harris gone, the 3-technique spot in Chicago's defense is available for te taking. Harrison is every bit as talented as Paea, Henry Melton, or any other player the Bears might sign in free agency. It's a matter of desire.
The lockout hurts a player like Harrison more than others, as he could be using this time to show the coaching staff he's ready to be a every down player. For a player who is hanging on to his roster spot by a thread, extra time on the practice field would only do him good.
Instead, he's left to train on his own, which has resulted in nothing but an out-of-shape player the last two years. If he shows up overweight and unmotivated when training camp begins, it's safe to say his time in Chicago will be over.
Now is his last chance. Whether he takes advantage of the opportunity remains to be seen.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider