Patriots

Damien Harris not worried about limited opportunities thus far

Damien Harris not worried about limited opportunities thus far

The Patriots are taking on the Browns at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. Be sure to tune in to NBC Sports Boston for Patriots Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. ET, then Postgame Live immediately after the Week 8 matchup.

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The New England Patriots have one of the deeper running back rooms in the NFL at the moment. With Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, and Brandon Bolden all on board, the team has a number of ways that they can attack defenses. And so far this season, they have used a committee approach to maximize their values.

However, one player that hasn't factored into the mix as much as some thought is Damien Harris. A third-round rookie out of Alabama, Harris has only been active once for the Patriots. That came in Week 7 against the New York Jets.  Though the game was a blowout, Harris didn't get his first carry until the latter stages of the fourth quarter and overall, he had four carries for 12 yards.

But still, Harris' limited opportunities haven't bothered him so far.

"All I worry about every single day is improving as a player and doing whatever this team needs me to do," Harris said per Nicole Yang of The Boston Globe. "If my name or number ever gets called, I try to be as ready as I can. As far as worrying about, ‘Am I going to play or am I not going to play?’, this, that, those are things I don’t have time to worry about."

It certainly sounds like Harris is buying into the Patriots system. And it's not entirely a surprise either. After all, Harris was used as part of a tandem at Alabama. He and first-round pick Josh Jacobs effectively split carries in their final season together. 

And as Harris stated, adjusting to the NFL has taken some time, which partially explains his limited opportunities.

"This is a professional league," Harris said. "Everything is harder. Learning is harder, the people you’re going against is harder. There’s a lot more challenges, but you just have to continue to improve every single day."

If Harris can continue to improve, more opportunities may arise for him in the Patriots run offense. Burkhead hasn't played at all since Week 4 with a toe injury. Michel has served as the team's lead back this year, but he is only averaging 3.3 yards per carry and hasn't been much of a factor in the passing game.

Should these issues persist, Harris should continue to be active and could see some more carries. And right now, it seems like he has the right attitude as he waits for his first big chance to prove himself.

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Report: Patriots to add Alabama assistant as special teams assistant

Report: Patriots to add Alabama assistant as special teams assistant

The Patriots reportedly have made a signing as NFL free agency approaches.

No, not THAT one.

New England will add Alabama assistant Joe Houston as an assistant special teams coordinator, according to Bruce Feldman of The Athletic and FOX Sports.

The Patriots lost special teams coach Joe Judge -- who also doubled as wide receivers coach this past season -- to the New York Giants, where he became head coach. With Houston added as a special teams assistant, it could mean the Patriots could promote Cam Achord, a special teams assistant the past two seasons, to oversee special teams. Achord took on a larger role last season with Judge adding receivers to his responsibilities.

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Houston spent last season on the staff of Bill Belichick pal Nick Saban at Alabama, a familiar breeding ground for Patriots players and coaches. He's a former kicker at USC (2009-10) who gained a reputation as a "kicking whisperer." during his tenure as special teams coach at Iowa State.

Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell told the Des Moines Register: “He’s maybe the best kicking coach in the country.”

What a new Collective Bargaining Agreement means for Tom Brady negotiations

What a new Collective Bargaining Agreement means for Tom Brady negotiations

The NFL is closing in on labor peace with a new CBA expected to be in place before free agency begins on March 18.

So far, the likelihood of an expanded playoff field in each conference (seven teams), an added playoff game (2 vs. 7 in the first round) and the addition of a 17th regular-season game is getting most of the attention.

But when it comes to immediate local relevance, a new CBA is potentially good news for negotiations between Tom Brady and the Patriots. Without a new CBA in place, teams can’t use the cap-protecting trick of inserting voidable years into a contract.

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The CBA is stocked with triggers in the final year of the pact that force both sides to the bargaining table to ensure labor peace. Preventing teams from having the ability to spread money into phony seasons so they can spread out cap hits is one of them.

With a new CBA in place before March 18, the Patriots can do what they did last year if they want to make Brady another one-year offer that’s fairly lucrative. Just give a multi-year deal that “voids” after one season. That way, the cap hit for 2020 can be split over the life of the contract.

Of course, the price is paid eventually. Cap is not crap. The Patriots are already facing $13.5M in money charged to their 2020 cap whether Brady plays for them this year or not. If they do it again, they’ll be compounding the charge.

The counterargument to that is this. Once the CBA is approved and the league re-enters negotiations with TV partners and starts to milk the gaming industry for profits, the annual salary cap (projected at $200M for this season) could rise quickly. So the percentage of the cap money kicked down the road is smaller than it appears now.

While we’re at it, here’s a couple of musings on the CBA ... 

There’s been surprisingly little discussion about how gambling revenue will be divvied up under the new pact. The proposal on the table calls for the players’ share of the pie to rise from 47 percent of gross revenues to 48.5 percent. But gambling represents a cash firehose for NFL owners that they’ve been standing at the end of for a few years with their 32 greedy mouths wide open.

Instead of paying attention to that, the NFLPA’s membership is looking at the shiny object that is a 17th regular season game and wondering if it’s good for them. Yes, of course it’s good for them. A week of preseason games will be wiped out, practice squads will be expanded and an extra team will make the postseason, thereby giving more players playoff shares. Also, adding a game means more revenue for everyone when the new TV deal is worked out, meaning player health benefits will increase.

The veteran players with "tenure" who’ve gotten their second contracts may be squawking loudest right now and they’ll shout down the easily-cowed younger players but it’s barely even worth arguing. A 17th game is an easy ask. But the NFLPA should be watching owners closely for gambling chicanery.

Also, all the concern players registered over Article 46 and Roger Goodell’s absolute power? All the complaints about getting weed legalized under the new pact? All the stuff that – three years ago we were told were going to be real sticking points at the bargaining table? Don’t hear much about them right now. Know why?

The players actually got a kick-ass deal in 2011 that’s only gotten better for them over the last nine years as the salary cap’s risen from $133M in 2014 to north of $200M this year.

Curran: Where things stand for Brady, Pats a month from free agency