Perhaps no player on the Minnesota Vikings’ roster took bigger strides during the 2015 season than safety Anthony Harris. He began the offseason signing as an undrafted free agent with the Vikings and was eventually signed to their practice squad prior to the start of the regular season.
He was then called off the practice squad during Week 14 and signed to the team’s active roster after a slew of injuries devastated the team’s depth at safety. He was asked to start in a regular season game against the No. 1 offense in the NFL at the time, the Arizona Cardinals, all on a short week.
Harris was able to rise to the occasion and able to hold his own, recording eight tackle and a deflected pass. He would also be asked to start in the team’s Week 15 game against the Chicago Bears, where he recorded five tackles and a deflected pass.
Having the chance to start in two regular season games after going undrafted was not something that Harris was expecting to happen, but part of the reason for that was because he did not set any expectations for his rookie season. He just wanted to show up in camp, compete and give himself an opportunity to make the roster.
“I think I took some pretty good strides,” he said. “Just staying focused the entire year, trying to get better, trying to help the team in any way and then getting the opportunity to get called up and play in a game. Just trying to take advantage of it and give the team an opportunity to win the game, I thought that was good. Coming into this year just trying to take strides off of that, continue to build and just continue to get better.”
Once again, Harris has not set any expectations for this coming season; he simply wants to give himself a chance to be a contributor for the Vikings. He has put himself in a pretty good position to do that after the way his rookie season went, especially since the safety spot next to Harrison Smith still seems to be up for grabs.
Andrew Sendejo has been working with the first-team defense all through the team’s organized team activities, but head coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t seem to be sold on him yet. That means that Harris still has a good shot to earn the starting spot, but he also knows there are a lot of potential starters that he would have to beat out first.
“We got a really talented group,” he said. “Everybody’s out there working hard, competing, pushing each other to get better each and every day, so that’s all you can ask for when you’re trying to build a good team is have a good group of guys who are going to work together, but push each other each and every day. And then it’s up to the coaches to get that out of us.”
Even though all the safeties are competing with one another for the available starting spot, they are all still a tight-knit group of guys, joking around with one another and just having a good time.
“I think we’ve got a good group of guys athletically, but also character-wise,” Harris explained. “Guys are good guys. Off the field we hang around, laughing, joke a bit, so it’s nice to be able to go on the field, compete and make each other better, and then off the field just be on the lighter side of things.”
There is still a long ways to go until the start of the regular season and it is hard to know how things are going to turn out exactly. As a rookie, Harris proved that he has the ability to play at a high level when given the chance to start. The question for him now becomes how well he is able to carry that success over into his second year in the NFL and how well he is able to continue to develop.
If he continues to improve and do all the right things, there is a possibility that it could be him lining up next to Smith when the Vikings open up the regular season against the Tennessee Titans.null