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singersp
10-29-2005, 05:35 AM
Vikings: Harris feeling frustrated about football

A linebacker who was acquired in the Randy Moss trade, he has lost his starting job and admits he's struggling..

Judd, Star Tribune
Last update: October 28, 2005 at 9:14 PM

Napoleon Harris didn't have much to say about losing his job as the Vikings' strong-side linebacker to Keith Newman two weeks ago. Getting into his car, Harris declined to discuss why a central figure in the Randy Moss trade was no longer even a starter.

But Friday, standing at his locker in Winter Park, Harris talked about the frustration he has felt in his short time in Minnesota and how being expected to help fill the void left by a Pro Bowl receiver has only added to it.

"But at the same time I don't score touchdowns -- I'm not on offense," Harris said. "People expected because Moss is gone, well, Napoleon should have to play off the chain so he immediately makes it look like the trade worked.

"People have to realize, I didn't ask to be traded. I'm not upset about it. However, I am disappointed that I'm not, quote-unquote, living up to the expectations that people thought."

The Vikings acquired Harris, along with first- and seventh-round picks in the April draft, from Oakland last March in exchange for Moss. The Vikings used the seventh overall selection on receiver Troy Williamson and the seventh-rounder on cornerback Adrian Ward.

Ward was released in the final training-camp cutdown, and Williamson remains a work in progress. Harris was the only player expected to make an immediate impact.

That didn't come close to happening. He had nine tackles and two passes broken up when the Vikings decided to make the change to Newman during the bye week after an Oct. 2 loss in Atlanta. The Vikings now play a 3-4 base defense with Sam Cowart and E.J. Henderson as the inside linebackers and Newman and Raonall Smith on the outside.

Harris is used in passing situations.

"I'd say the way things transpired, I was shocked," Harris said of his demotion. "I'm still shocked to a degree because I feel I'm a good player, and I want to play and I want to contribute, help the team win. But at the same time, I think that we have a veteran enough team where Keith has played the position before and is a veteran. He knows how to play the position. So I think they had less leeway with me, as far as less tolerance."

Harris had a key tackle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 23-20 victory over Green Bay, throwing running back Tony Fisher for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2. That forced the Packers to kick a field goal that tied the score, and the Vikings won the game on the next drive.

Asked to assess his own performance, Harris said: "I don't think I've been making plays that I'm normally making. I haven't been making any spectacular plays. . . . I've had some mistakes here and there, which is expected. I'm playing Sam [strong-side] linebacker, which is something that's new to me. I'm an over [weak-side] linebacker that plays off the ball. So playing on the line is basically like a defensive end."

That, however, is the spot where Harris said he preferred to play when he arrived from Oakland. The 23rd selection in the first round by the Raiders in 2003 out of Northwestern, Harris was a starting linebacker in the Raiders' loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl XXXVII during his rookie season.

Last season, Harris battled through a torn meniscus in his right knee that forced him to miss the Raiders' first two games. Fluid was drained from the knee Tuesday. He sat out Wednesday's practice but was back on the field the past two days.

Harris elects not to use the knee as an excuse.

"It has been off and on a little bit, but it's nothing," he said. "I don't think it was as serious as people are making it to be."

Certainly not serious enough to keep him out, or stop him from wishing he was one of the team's four starting linebackers. Harris realizes his only role will be a limited one, but he's hoping that changes.

"It's just that I want to play football," Harris said. "So right now I'm continuing to work hard and whenever I have my chance to play try to make the best of it. I feel and know that I'm a good linebacker."

singersp
10-29-2005, 05:38 AM
With Neuman out playing him & being frustrated, I certainly hope he is driven to improve himself to where he will be able to contribute at a high level.

Hitstick31
10-29-2005, 05:41 AM
He's physically our most gifted linebacker.

mnvikes61
10-29-2005, 06:56 AM
let's home he steps up to the challenge and gets his starting job back, he was saying we'd be saying Moss who when he was coming over to the vikes and he hasn't really stood out, at least to me he hasn't. i think if he steps up he can be a good linebacker for us, which is probaly our weakest link on D

natethegreat
10-29-2005, 07:07 AM
"mnvikes61" wrote:

let's home he steps up to the challenge and gets his starting job back, he was saying we'd be saying Moss who when he was coming over to the vikes and he hasn't really stood out, at least to me he hasn't. i think if he steps up he can be a good linebacker for us, which is probaly our weakest link on D

i agree 100% with that, LB is our weakest leak on defense, i think we have 5-6 decent line backers and not one great one, i think harris has the chance to be a great LB for us, hopefully he gets some confidence in his game and can step it up

PurplePeopleEaters
10-29-2005, 07:12 AM
EJ is our LB of the future. He tore up the Packers game. Now if Dontarrious and Napoleon would get their acts together, we could have a great LBing corps in the future.

mnvikes61
10-29-2005, 07:18 AM
yah EJ is good, still looks like a liablity in the passing defense to me. i'm liking the 3-4 look. looks like we have been causing more pressure and it finally looks like our defense is beginning to gel a little bit.

RK.
10-29-2005, 08:06 AM
I think Napo is going to be a good player for us when they find a place for him. I think what he said is on the money.

I've had some mistakes here and there, which is expected. I'm playing Sam [strong-side] linebacker, which is something that's new to me. I'm an over [weak-side] linebacker that plays off the ball. So playing on the line is basically like a defensive end."
He was put in a position that he hadn't been playing. That coupled with the fact that Cottrell's D wasn't working very well makes it hard to learn a position. I think he is a talented player that the coach's just need to learn how to use. :smile:

gregair13
10-29-2005, 09:26 AM
napoleon is not playing well, someone else is playing better. thats why he is on the bench. makes sense to me,.

V4L
10-29-2005, 05:23 PM
I like Napo.. I hope he can come around soon.. He will be a playmaker in the 2nd level that we need!

Num1mossfan
10-29-2005, 07:00 PM
AKA the vikes traded Moss for NO1...

VikingsTw
10-29-2005, 07:27 PM
"mnvikes61" wrote:

yah EJ is good, still looks like a liablity in the passing defense to me. i'm liking the 3-4 look. looks like we have been causing more pressure and it finally looks like our defense is beginning to gel a little bit.

Yeah dude that seemed to be the case last year and possibly the year before but since he's played this years hes been all over his assignments. I've seen EJ do some really really good things in pass coverage then totally blow one, but not this year, dudes on his A game, can wait to see him this weekend.

mnvikes61
10-29-2005, 07:35 PM
i haven't really every just watched EJ play a coverage on our passing defense. i just saw/heard our LBs being out of position and i just kind of grouped them all together, which was wrong i'll admit it. i'm glad to hear his coverage skills have improved greatly, i know he makes tons of tackles for us so i hope he becomes the LB that we all wanted him to become.

Vikes
10-29-2005, 08:00 PM
It was a trade to SAVE cap money. Nap was just something thrown in. I feel bad for him but that is the business side of football.

NordicNed
10-29-2005, 08:13 PM
I think the original trade had more to do with Cap money and getting rid of a team distraction, more that trying to replace Moss with a better player..

fact, I don't think it is possible to replace Moss with a better position player.....Moss is and always will be one of the tops of my list of Best Positional Players..

Would be nice in the long run to see Troy and Napo turn out to be top shelf players in our organization, to make the Moss loss, less hurting..

Num1mossfan
10-29-2005, 09:51 PM
if the vikes had Moss they would walk into the playoffs

mnvikes61
10-29-2005, 09:52 PM
"Num1mossfan" wrote:

if the vikes had Moss they would walk into the playoffs
yup they always made the playoffs when Moss was here :roll:

tke0933
10-30-2005, 07:30 AM
The Moss trade probably was made for cap reasons, but we also needed help at linebacker. Harris has the abilty to shore up the defense in that position, we just have maximize his abilities to do that. Now that we seem to have gone to the 3-4, he needs to show what he can do.