The Kansas City Chiefs were hit with the news of starting linebacker Willie Gay Jr.’s suspension earlier in the week, forcing immediate adjustments on the defensive side of the ball.
The four-week suspension will challenge the team’s depth at the position, but it will also open up opportunities for players that desire more time on the field. One player who will see more playtime this week is fourth-year LB Darius Harris. He has been with the Chiefs organization in some capacity since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2019, floating between active roster and practice squad throughout his NFL career.
Steve Spagnuolo believes Harris will be a vital player for this Sunday’s game and beyond as the team deals with the absence of Gay Jr. for the next four weeks.
“I’ll tell you what, I’m fired up to see Darius (Harris) out there,” said Spagnuolo. “I’m really happy for him that he has this opportunity. You’re talking about a guy who’s been here for a number of years. If you remember the first year he was here; it was a ‘redshirt’ year because of his shoulder, I believe. And that’s a long year to go through. And then he came in, and he’s just kind of done this (upward motion) continually as a player. (He) earned himself a right to be on the roster this year, and he’s one of those cerebral guys, so I’m really anxious to see what he can do.”
Harris is one of the players who played his way onto the 53-man roster during the preseason finale. He has a career stat line of 17 tackles and one fumble recovery since 2019, making two career starts in Kansas City.
It’s clear that Harris has the coaching staff’s confidence and is focused on making the most of the latest opportunity. He talked about his mindset heading into Sunday’s game with reporters after Thursday’s practice.
“Practice this week, for me, has kind of been different,” said Harris. “Just stepping into the starting lineup. Obviously, here it’s the ‘next man up’ mentality. Whether it’s this week, next week, or next month – you’ve just got to be ready when your number is called and when the time presents itself. So, just taking the same approach (and) just being dialed in more and kind of just looking at a different position but also just making sure I’m ready come Sunday to help this team win.”
Harris’s determination to make his mark has kept him working behind the scenes for years. He’ll have his moment to shine in Week 3 against a challenging opponent and prove to everyone that he deserves more playing time moving forward.