View Full Version : A Quick Study - Napoleon Harris

08-04-2006, 12:54 AM
A Quick Study

Author: Mike Wobschall, vikings.com (http://vikings.com/news_detail_objectname_NapHarrisFeature8306.html)

Vikings linebacker Napoleon Harris is entering his second season in Minnesota, but in some respects it feels like his first. After spending 2005 platooning as an outside linebacker with E.J. Henderson and Keith Newman, Harris now finds himself playing middle linebacker with the first team.

"It's going pretty good," Harris said of his second year in Purple. "We're coming in with a new system, great coaches, and with the new system being implemented it's so far so good."

But learning, or relearning, the position and adjusting to the different responsibilities that come with playing the middle hasn't been difficult for the five-year veteran.

"It hasn't been too much of a big adjustment," says Harris, who played middle linebacker for the Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII against Tampa Bay. "I think the biggest adjustment has been calling out the plays of the defense and getting the defense to communicate. But after that, once you're off the ball you're off the ball and it's all gap responsibility after that."

With Sam Cowart signed to play the middle last season, Harris was penciled in at outside linebacker, and would share the duties with Henderson and Newman. Now, with Cowart gone, Harris appears to be the front-runner to line up in the middle.

So, after switching to the outside for a year and then coming back to the middle in 2006, one may be concerned with his comfort level playing the position.

"I'd say it's about the same," Harris answered when asked about his comfort level with the middle position compared to the outside. "It's right about where I want it to be but I'm never satisfied. I'll just keep working hard and get better and better."

Harris' adjustment to the middle linebacker position has more to do with just switching back from the outside, however. With the coaching changes that occurred this off-season, a new defensive scheme is being implemented. The well-chronicled Tampa Two defense is being installed by defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin, meaning Harris has to work that much harder to remain on top of his game.

"I'm definitely more comfortable being that this is my second year," Harris said. "At the same time, it's a new beginning because we've got a new coaching staff and new everything so it takes some time to get adjusted to it. But I think it's a great thing because being here the whole off-season, learning the new system, learning what's expected of me, learning what's expected of my teammates [really helped] and once we all get on the same page everything should jell and work smoothly."

Harris understands the role a middle linebacker plays, and he cherishes the responsibilities he now has.

"Well, the middle linebacker automatically brings on a leadership role," Harris said after one afternoon practice session during training camp. "You look at the middle linebacker position as the quarterback on defense and that's something I take a lot of pride in and I've worked hard at being able to have that job in order to communicate to my teammates and demand the respect from my teammates. It's definitely a position that demands the respect of your teammates."

So, how does the ‘quarterback of the defense' feel the team is adjusting to the new defensive scheme?

"I think we're coming along. We're going to jell and get better and better. You've got some of the same guys that were here last year, but all in all you've got a new system, new staff and new terminology and those things take time to jell and get on the right track."

But it won't take much longer. After all, Harris has already proven he's a quick study.

08-04-2006, 01:25 AM
im hoping he starts this year - although that means that E.J. Henderson will either start OLB or be benched behind Greenway - which sucks since he's played really well this training camp.

wow, i cant believe im trying to think of which LB would be best rather then just.. least bad lol

08-04-2006, 01:28 AM
Greenway (a lock even thou a rookie)

08-04-2006, 02:54 AM
when did harrris become a quick study?

08-04-2006, 02:58 AM
I wouldnt be too sure about Greenway. He might have good instincts, but physically he will have trouble in the nfl because of his lack of bulk, I think Ben Leber or Dontarrious takes the outside opposite EJ with Napoleon Harris in the middle.

08-04-2006, 03:08 AM
It's good to see that Harris is doing well this year. I suspected that last year he was playing out of position at SLB and should have been playing MLB. But Cowart was Cottrell's guy, and we know how that stuff goes.

I think people sometimes forget that he did win the starting MLB job from Greg Biekert (in Oakland) as a Rookie. And though aging and slow, Biekert was easily our best LBer for a couple of years here.

Here's my prediction for the linebacker spots:

Base package:
SLB - Leber
MLB - Harris
WLB - E.J. at first, then maybe Greenway later if he plays well.

Nickel package:
E.J. or Greenway
Thomas - His athleticism should be useful here. He did play in a Cover-2 at Auburn so he knows the system.

08-04-2006, 08:49 AM
"marshallvike" wrote:

when did harrris become a quick study?

To tell you the truth I don't understand what he means by that title either.

08-04-2006, 11:55 AM
I think that title means A Quick Study OF Napoleon Harris, by the writer.

On the subject of the article, it seems that Napoleon is getting all the press regarding his place as the middle linebacker.