Harris' days as a student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma are over, but he's just beginning the school of hard knocks in the NFL. There might not be pop quizzes, presentations or papers to write, but Harris will have to get down and dirty to earn playing time quickly. With veterans Bryan Robinson and Alfonso Boone working with the first-team defense, and second-round pick Tank Johnson, a Gary native, in the mix, Harris is going to have to earn his stripes.
"It's hard to think rookies are going to come in and be starters," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "Do I anticipate him coming in and playing? Yes. How much of an impact, again, that's going to be determined by his play and the coaches."
Harris, the 2003 Lombardi Trophy winner as the nation's top interior lineman, started in 37 of 39 games at Oklahoma and was a consensus first-team All-American as a sophomore and junior. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Harris was the team's first-round pick, 14th overall, in the April draft.
"Right now I'm going through a learning process," Harris said. "If I go through the learning process well and learn it off of guys like B-Rob and Boone and guys like that, then I can just be in the rotation and contribute."
The 21-year-old Harris arrived on Day 2 of camp after agreeing Wednesday to a five-year contract worth a reported $9.8 million.
"It was disappointing not being there at the first practice, but you've also got to understand that this is a business," Harris said. "I'm learning how to take care of the business side and then come out here and work. ... It's good to have all these things (with a big contract), but just playing football and being out here is priceless."
While Harris' arrival at camp was crucial to him getting to learn the new system of first-year defensive coordinator and former Bears linebacker Ron Rivera, the Bears were missing third-round pick Bernard Berrian.
Berrian, a wide receiver out of Fresno State, was held out of practice Thursday after signing late Wednesday. He still isn't 100 percent after pulling his right hamstring in late June during a mini-camp workout at Halas Hall. Berrian holds the Fresno State record with 5,828 career all-purpose yards. He's also a threat on special teams as a punt and kick returner.
"I'm ready to go, but I'm just waiting to be cleared (by the medical staff)," Berrian said.
Berrian set a Western Athletic Conference record with 2,776 all-purpose yards as a junior and ranks first in school history in touchdowns catches (25) and punt return yards (1,144).
"We're just being cautious again with hamstrings; they're tough," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We just want to make sure he's healed up before we let him go."