Najee Harris looks to lead Alabama vs. Clemson in CFP National Championship


Najee Harris looks to lead Alabama vs. Clemson in CFP National Championship

SAN JOSE -- The last two years have been a big adjustment for Najee Harris. Going from Antioch, Calif., to Tuscaloosa, Ala., everything has been different. From the humidity, to the food, to the culture, it was unfamiliar.

So was the football. 

Harris, at 6-foot-2 and 230 pounds, is one of the greatest high school football players in Bay Area history. He rushed for nearly 8,000 career yards at Antioch High School, and was one of the top college football recruits in the nation. Then the running back arrived at the University of Alabama quickly feeling homesick and searching for carries.

In the biggest game of his life, though, Harris showed off his skills under the brightest lights. The story was all about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa taking over at halftime of the College Football Playoff championship game last year, but joining him as the Crimson Tide's running back was Harris. 

On just six carries, Harris led Alabama with 64 yards rushing, all coming in the second half of a thrilling 26-23 win over Georgia.

“It’s not really a confidence builder, it didn’t spark me at all," Harris said at Saturday's media day at SAP Center. "I know what I can do when I get in the game. I’m not really shocked or amazed by what I can do.”

As a sophomore, Harris again is sharing carries in Alabama's loaded backfield and again will play in the CFP championship game. He's second on the team in rushing yards (724) and third in carries (108), but he leads by a large margin with his 6.7 yards per carry. 

“To be honest, yeah," Harris said to NBC Sports Bay Area when asked if it's tough waiting his turn for the ball. "I think for any running back it would be. But you just gotta wait for your opportunity, and when you get in the game, show you’re ready.”

After Alabama's Monday night clash with the Clemson Tigers at Levi's Stadium -- just over an hour's drive from his hometown -- Harris will have at least one more season in college before turning pro, the same year the East Bay native will see the Raiders leave Oakland for Las Vegas. 

“Man, that’s crazy," Harris said. "It’s crazy how they’re taking everything out of Oakland. With everything going on out there, the kids can go to something right now. That’s sad right there.”

But, first, it's time for at least one more ring. 

Harris will be ready come Monday at Levi's, home to the NFL team he roots for while halfway across the country. He expects to have plenty of family, friends and former coaches in attendance, but nothing like the reported hundreds who will be there for Tagovailoa

"Never more than Tua," Harris said with a laugh. "Never."

California Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

California Governor Gavin Newsom 'doesn't anticipate' normal NFL games in fall

President Donald Trump reportedly told sports commissioners and top executives Saturday that he believes the NFL should start on time with fans returning to stadiums by August despite the coronavirus outbreak.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom doesn't share the same thoughts.

The governor was asked about Trump's reported prediction, and said he doesn't envision California having made enough progress against the virus for it to be business as usual for the NFL come fall.

“I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said Saturday. “We’ve all seen the headlines over the last couple days in Asia, where they opening up certain businesses, and now they’re starting to roll back those openings because they’re starting seeing some spread and there’s a boomerang. One has to be very cautious here, one has to be careful not to overpromise.

"It's interesting, I have a lot of friends that work in Major League Baseball and the NFL, they've been asking me -- in fact, a well-known athlete -- a football player -- just asked me if he expects to come back. I said, 'I would move very cautiously in that expectation.' "

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Newsom is making sure to prioritize safety and caution above all else before letting sports return.

“Our decision on that basis here in the State of California will be determined by the facts, will be determined by the health experts, will be determined by our ability to meet this moment and bend the curve, and have the appropriate community surveillance and testing to confidently determine whether that's appropriate," Newsom said. "Right now, I’m just focusing on the immediate, but that’s not something I anticipate happening in the next few months.”

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The truth of the matter is that no one knows how long this will last or when sports will be able to return to packed stadiums. The NFL is planning on starting the schedule on time with fans in the stadium, but that might not be the case in California. With many epidemiologists expecting the virus to surge again the fall, the fate of the NFL's season is very much up in the air.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as well as a lead member of the White House's coronavirus taskforce, told Warriors star Steph Curry that sports can only safely return once the country as a whole has turned the corner from the outbreak and the medical system no longer is under strain.

As of Saturday, there were more than 270,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and NBC News reporting.

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

Watch DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Clelin Ferrell in joint workout

While the NFL offseason programs are postponed, many players are still working out to be ready for the time when the teams are able to get back to work in an organized setting.

In Miami, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Clelin Ferrell are working out with private defensive line coach Mark Hall.

Hall, who recently was a guest on the 49ers Insider Podcast, sent a video to NBC Sports Bay Area of the three players working out.

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The 49ers recently traded Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and re-signed Armstead to a four-year, $84 million contract. Ferrell will enter his second season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being the club’s first-round selection at No. 4 overall in the 2019 draft.