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Versatile Harris Wants To Be Considered Elite Returner
IRVING, Texas – The term dual-threat is typically used these days when talking about quarterbacks who can run and pass. It can be referred to any player that specializes in a pair of categories.
Dwayne Harris isn’t satisfied with just two areas anymore.
If last year proved anything, it’s that Harris can be a difference-maker in three areas – as a return specialist, a wide receiver and even on the coverage units.
“I want to do all of it,” Harris said. “It keeps me versatile. Keeps me on the field. Whatever the team needs me to do, the coach needs me to do, I’m willing to do it.”
Harris didn’t just play three areas, but excelled in them, especially as a returner. The third-year veteran ranked second in the NFL with a 30.6-yard kick return average. His 12.8-yard punt return average ranked fourth in the league. And against the Redskins on Oct. 13, Harris shined in both areas, returning a punt 86 yards for a touchdown, followed by a 90-yard kickoff return that led to another score. Harris was the NFL’s Special Teams Player of the Week for that game. He also took home the honors for Week 1 when he recovered a key fumble in the return game that led to points against the Giants.
But he also helped win another game as a receiver. His game-winning touchdown catch in the final minute of play helped beat the Vikings on Nov. 3.
That brought up an interesting question for the do-it-all standout. If Harris could win the game with a touchdown catch, or return a punt 75 yards for a touchdown or run down on a punt and deliver a huge hit to force a fumble, which of the three would create the biggest rush?
“I think … the return for me. It’s an adrenaline rush by itself,” said Harris, who has two punt return scores in his career. “A game-winning touchdown, I’ve done that. It felt good. It was amazing. For an amazing return, it sets me over the top.”
Even now, Harris said it’s often hard to believe he’s getting to return kicks at the highest level.
I love returning. I was a return specialist in college,” said Harris, who starred at East Carolina and was the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Year in 2009 as a junior. “I loved it. Getting a chance to do that in the NFL is amazing for me.”
Harris said he wants to be viewed in the same category as the perennial top returners such as Devin Hester.
“Most definitely. Every year, the guys help me get better and better,” Harris said. “This year we were top 2 or 3 in punt return and kick return. Without those guys blocking for me, I can’t do my job.”
But it’s not just about the return game. This year, Harris said he’s making sure he’s just as sharp as a receiver.
“I think for me, it’s (being) versatile, learn everything,” Harris said of receiver positions. “We have a team that gets injured a lot. We need to have guys like me to play everything and be ready. I need to be prepared to do everything. If they want me to play receiver, that’s what I’ll do. If they want me to play special teams, that’s what I’ll do.”
Based on his production, Harris will be asked to do both. And probably cover kicks as well.