NFC South: Bryce Harris

Saints re-sign K Graham, OL Harris

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
The New Orleans Saints have re-signed veteran kicker Shayne Graham, his agent, Camron Hahn, confirmed. And they appear to have re-signed young offensive tackle Bryce Harris.

They both popped up with new salaries listed Friday on the NFL Players Association website.

Graham, who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next month, is listed with a salary of $955,000. Harris, an exclusive rights free agent, is listed with a salary of $570,000.

I think both players could wind up playing key roles for the Saints in 2014.

As I’ve written before, I think Graham appears to be a great fit with the Saints – even though his brief audition last season ended in disappointing fashion with two missed field goals in the playoff loss at Seattle.

Both of those misses, from 45 and 48 yards, came against the wind in some tough weather conditions. Before that, Graham was a perfect 6-for-6 with the Saints – including 4-for-4 in a 26-24 playoff victory at Philadelphia one week earlier.

For some reason, Graham, 36, has been struggling to find consistent work in the NFL over the past four years, even though he continues to produce almost everywhere he lands. He was clutch for the Houston Texans in the playoffs two years ago, as well.

And I think Graham carried himself with great poise and confidence during the month he was in New Orleans. He has made 85.5 percent of his regular-season field goals in a 13-year career spent primarily with the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Saints went looking for a new kicker in December after parting ways with Garrett Hartley, whose six-year tenure was a roller coaster filled with some extreme highs and lows – and ultimately too much inconsistency.

Graham will compete with young kicker Derek Dimke, whom the Saints signed to a futures contract last month, among any other possible candidates the Saints might consider down the road.

As for Harris, his re-signing was a no-brainer. The 25-year-old, 6-foot-6, 300-pounder has shown some nice potential over the past two years as a backup lineman/jumbo tight end, making two spot starts. If the Saints don’t re-sign unrestricted free-agent veteran Zach Strief, I see Harris as a strong possibility to win the starting job at right tackle.

Earlier Friday we also reported that the Saints re-signed backup cornerback Trevin Wade as an exclusive rights free agent.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief was declared inactive for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots with an ankle injury. Second-year pro Bryce Harris is expected to make his second career start in Strief’s place.

That’s definitely a setback for the Saints since Harris is unproven. But Harris has played in every game this year as the sixth lineman/extra tight end in jumbo sets. And he said this week that it helps to get the first-string snaps in practice all week.

Also inactive for the Saints are receiver Lance Moore (hand) and running back Mark Ingram (toe), who were listed as questionable. The Saints have played without both offensive weapons for several weeks, though, so they’ve proven they can absorb those losses with their deep offense. Safety Roman Harper (knee) and defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker (knee) were previously declared out.

A surprise healthy inactive is outside linebacker Martez Wilson, who has played sparingly as a backup this year. Rookie cornerback Rod Sweeting is also a healthy inactive.
METAIRIE, La. -- There were no changes to the New Orleans Saints' injury report Thursday, with four players still held out of team drills -- offensive tackle Zach Strief (ankle), receiver Lance Moore (hand), safety Roman Harper (knee) and defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker (knee). Although the Saints don't offer specific details on injuries, those four players are looking like long shots to play Sunday at the New England Patriots since they haven't practiced yet this week.

Strief, the Saints' starting right tackle, is the only new member on that list this week, and his absence would leave a sizable question mark on the end of the line. If Strief can't play, second-year pro Bryce Harris is in line to replace him.

Harris (6-foot-6, 300 pounds) is unproven after making just one start in his career -- last season, before he suffered a season-ending ankle injury. But he has come back strong from that injury, and he has played in all five games this year as the sixth lineman/tight end in jumbo packages.

"That's my job as a backup: Be always ready. I've been ready for the first five weeks, and I'm gonna be ready for Week 6," said Harris, who said it's helpful that he's taken the snaps with the first string in practice this week to help prepare him if necessary.

Harris is grateful to be in this position after last year. He suffered a nasty injury during his first career start against the San Francisco 49ers -- breaking his ankle/fibula to the point where his foot was "just dangling there."

He was cleared to return to practice just one week before OTAs this spring and said he didn't really get into his groove until a week into training camp.

"In this business there's never a certainty, especially coming off an injury like that," Harris said. "You've got to come back and (I had to) prove myself after a pretty significant injury. So I think I'm doing OK."

Harris said he dealt with the setback, though.

"As Forrest Gump would say, ‘Something' happens," Harris said. "That's kind of a life philosophy I live by."

The same five players were limited for the Saints on Thursday -- running back Mark Ingram (toe), cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee), safety Malcolm Jenkins (neck), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and linebacker Ramon Humber (leg).

It's unclear if Ingram is far enough along in his recovery from the toe injury to return to the lineup Sunday after missing the past three games. The Saints have a bye coming up in Week 7, which will give all their ailing players more time to recover.
METAIRE, La. – Starting right tackle Zach Strief was a new addition to the New Orleans Saints’ injury report Wednesday. He was held out of practice with an ankle injury. On a positive note, running back Mark Ingram returned to practice on a limited basis after missing the past three games with a toe injury.

Four players did not practice for the Saints -- Strief, receiver Lance Moore (hand), safety Roman Harper (knee) and defensive lineman Tyrunn Walker (knee). The other three players have all been sidelined for a week or more.

Five players were limited Wednesday -- Ingram, cornerback Keenan Lewis (knee), safety Malcolm Jenkins (neck), defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley (calf) and linebacker Ramon Humber (leg).

The Saints don’t offer details on the severity of injuries, so it’s too early in the week to predict which players are in jeopardy of missing Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. Obviously Moore and Harper should be considered long shots until they return to the practice field after being out for an extended period.

If Strief can’t play, second-year pro Bryce Harris will be his likely replacement. Harris has played in all five games this year as the Saints’ sixth linemen/extra tight end in jumbo sets. He started one game as an injury replacement for Strief last year.

The Saints have a bye coming in Week 7, which will allow some extra time for some of these injuries to heal.

NFC South afternoon update

August, 21, 2013
Time for a quick spin through some odds and ends from around the division:


Former Atlanta defensive end Claude Humphrey might finally get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was announced Wednesday that Humphrey and Ray Guy are the two candidates nominated by the senior committee for the Class of 2014. The final selection will come the day before the Super Bowl.


Former Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme addressed the team Wednesday. Most of the current players never played with Delhomme, but they’d be wise to listen to the only quarterback ever to take the team to a Super Bowl. I’m glad Delhomme still has a relationship with the team. His time in Carolina didn’t end well, but fans need to get over that and remember that there were a lot of good times with Delhomme.


The team released offensive tackle Jason Smith on Wednesday. The Saints took a shot on Smith, who was the second overall pick of the 2009 draft by St. Louis because they thought he still might have some upside. They gave him a look first at left tackle, but Charles Brown and rookie Terron Armstead quickly moved ahead of him. Smith later switched to right tackle, but fell behind Bryce Harris as the backup to starter Zach Strief.


Kicker Rian Lindell, who was signed by the Bucs on Wednesday, sent a classy letter to the fans of the Buffalo Bills, the team he played for the previous 10 seasons.

Quarterback Josh Freeman took the high road when asked about recent criticism by Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton. Freeman said the important thing is to have the respect of his coaches and teammates.
As he spoke to the media at the NFL owners meeting Wednesday morning, New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said there are two things that are keeping him awake at night.

He said he’s losing sleep over who will rush the passer and who will play left tackle.

I get the feeling the Saints aren’t done bringing in outside linebackers. But at least they have some promising options there. Martez Wilson and Junior Galette, who have played defensive end, could prosper as outside linebackers in the 3-4 scheme the Saints are switching to.

The bigger issue is left tackle. The Saints lost Pro Bowler Jermon Bushrod to Chicago as a free agent. Although the Saints had to have known losing Bushrod was likely due to their salary-cap situation, there’s no obvious replacement on the roster.

Bryce Harris and Marcel Jones are young and their ceilings may not be that high. The best option currently on the roster might be Charles Brown, but he’s far from a sure thing and I don’t know that the Saints are ready to let him protect Drew Brees’ blind side.

A second-round pick in 2010, Brown never has lived up to his hype. That largely has been due to a series of injuries. Brown is recovering from a knee injury that brought a premature end to his 2012 season.

I think Brown will at least get a look as a possibility at left tackle, but the Saints would be wise to try to add someone with starting experience in free agency.

Looking at Saints' offensive snaps

February, 12, 2013
Aside from right tackle, where a series of injuries forced many changes, the New Orleans Saints' offensive line was exceptionally durable in the 2012 season.

Guard Ben Grubbs and center Brian De La Puente each took part in all 1,107 of New Orleans’ offensive plays. Guard Jahri Evans missed two plays and left tackle Jermon Bushrod missed four.

Here’s the percentage breakdown of playing time for the rest of the New Orleans offense:

Bucs, Falcons make most of injuries

December, 4, 2012
When a team’s season goes bad, one common response is to point to injuries.

Sometimes that holds merit and sometimes it doesn’t. We don’t have to look any further than the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to see that.

At least at the moment, the Panthers lead the division with 13 players on injured reserve. They are linebacker Jon Beason, defensive tackle Ron Edwards, cornerback Chris Gamble, center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Thomas Keiser, cornerback Nate Ness, linebacker Kenny Onatolu, receiver Kealoha Pilares, guard Mike Pollak, safety Sherrod Martin, defensive lineman Antwan Applewhite, running back Tauren Poole and tackle Lee Ziemba.

The Buccaneers are right behind them with 10 players on injured reserve. They are receiver Arrelious Benn, linebacker Quincy Black, defensive end Adrian Clayborn, safety Cody Grimm, guard Davin Joseph, guard Carl Nicks, tight end Danny Noble, receiver Sammie Stroughter, tackle Jeremy Trueblood and offensive lineman Desmond Wynn.

Beason, Edwards, Gamble and Kalil were starters and Pilares was the kick returner. No doubt those injuries have hurt the Panthers.

But, guess what? Tampa Bay’s injury situation is virtually the same. Black, Clayborn, Joseph and Nicks were starters and Benn was returning kicks before he went down.

The difference is Tampa Bay has used its next-man-up philosophy, especially on the offensive line, and fared pretty well. The Panthers are 3-9 and I’ve got a hunch their record might be pretty close to the same even if all the injured guys were healthy.

Injuries matter but they’re not a cover-it-all excuse. We can look to the other two NFC South teams for proof of that. The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints each have eight players on injured reserve.

Atlanta’s injured players are fullback Bradie Ewing, tight end Tommy Gallarda, receiver Kerry Meier, tight end Adam Nissley, guard Garrett Reynolds, safety Shann Schillinger and tackle Will Svitek.

New Orleans’ injured reserve list includes linebacker Chris Chamberlain, receiver Chris Givens, tackle Bryce Harris, tackle Marcel Jones, defensive end Greg Romeus, guard Andrew Tiller, receiver Nick Toon and tackle Fenuki Tupou.

Grimes was a starter for the Falcons and Ewing might have been. Reynolds was starting up until his injury, but I think there’s a chance the Falcons still might have put rookie Peter Konz into the lineup. Chamberlain might have been a full-time starter for the Saints, but none of the rest of their injured guys would have been key players.

You could make a case the Falcons were hit harder than the Saints by injuries. But the Falcons are 11-1 and the Saints are 5-7.

NFC South afternoon update

November, 27, 2012
Time for a quick cruise through the top headlines from around the division:


Starting cornerbacks Asante Samuel (shoulder) and Dunta Robinson (illness) did not participate in Tuesday’s practice. That creates some reason to worry with the New Orleans Saints coming to town Thursday night. Robert McClain has done pretty well as the nickelback. But, if he’s moved into the starting lineup, the Falcons would have to rely on Christopher Owens and Dominique Franks.


Defensive tackle Ron Edwards was placed on injured reserve with a dislocated elbow. This probably signals the end of Edwards’ time with the Panthers. He was a big free-agent signing last year but got hurt in the preseason and missed all of last season. The Panthers will need to trim salary-cap room after the season and Edwards is a prime candidate to be released. Coach Ron Rivera also said running back Jonathan Stewart could miss some time with an ankle injury. That would mean more carries for DeAngelo Williams.

If you’re a Carolina fan, you probably already are looking ahead to next year’s draft. In this Insider post, Steve Muench takes a look at Carolina’s needs. The item above provides a big hint about one area that’s been a problem spot for a long time. But Muench also addresses wide receiver and safety.


Rookie right tackle Bryce Harris was placed on injured reserve after breaking a bone in his leg in his first career star. Harris was playing because of injuries to Zach Strief and Charles Brown. Interim coach Joe Vitt expressed optimism that Strief, who practiced on a limited basis Tuesday, will be able to return for Thursday night’s game with Atlanta. If Strief isn’t ready, the Saints would have to turn to the recently-signed William Robinson.


With cornerback Eric Wright serving a four-game suspension for using Adderall, Mark Cook has a relevant story with an agent’s perspective on why so many players are using the prescription drug.

The Bucs also just announced they have placed safety Cody Grimm and offensive tackle Jeremy Trueblood on injured reserve.

Saints hope to have Zach Strief back

November, 26, 2012
The New Orleans Saints could have their fourth starting right tackle Thursday night when they play the Atlanta Falcons.

Interim coach Joe Vitt just told the New Orleans media that rookie Bryce Harris, who started in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco and left with an injury in the first quarter, will not be available for the Atlanta game.

Zach Strief, the original starter, has been sidelined with a groin injury. He practiced some last week, but was not activated Sunday. Vitt said Strief was not close to being ready for the San Francisco game. Vitt said he has some hope Strief, who first was replaced by Charles Brown before he suffered an injury that cleared the way for Harris, might be ready for the Atlanta game.

If not, the Saints likely will have to start recently signed William Robinson at right tackle.

Wrap-up: 49ers 31, Saints 21

November, 25, 2012

Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints' 31-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday.

What it means: The Saints fall to 5-6. You can’t erase them from the playoff picture just yet, but it’s getting dangerously close to that point. With a schedule that looks challenging the next few weeks, the Saints have almost no margin for error. They almost have to run the table if they’re going to have any shot at the playoffs. A 10-6 record probably would put them into the postseason. A 9-7 record would give them an outside chance. Anything less than that won’t be good enough.

Not all on the defense: It would be easy to look at San Francisco’s point total and put all the blame on the New Orleans defense. That’s been the case much of this season. But not this time. Two of San Francisco’s touchdowns came on interceptions off Drew Brees that were turned into touchdowns.

Injuries pile up: Due to injuries to Zach Strief and Charles Brown, the Saints were forced to start rookie Bryce Harris at right tackle. That didn’t last long as Harris was injured and carted off the field in the first quarter. The Saints had to turn to recently-signed William Robinson. That’s not a situation you want to be in against a strong San Francisco pass rush and Brees had to deal with pressure all game and was sacked five times.

Milestone time: Marques Colston became the franchise leader in touchdowns scored when he caught a second-quarter touchdown pass. Colston now has 56 career touchdowns. Deuce McAllister held the previous team record with 55 touchdowns.

What’s next: The Saints face a very quick turnaround. They have to play the Falcons on Thursday night in Atlanta.

Saints may have to start rookie tackle

November, 23, 2012
It’s looking like the New Orleans Saints may have to start rookie Bryce Harris against San Francisco’s strong pass rush Sunday.

Zach Strief, the regular starter, is listed as questionable and practiced only on a limited basis all week. Charles Brown, who had been starting in Strief’s place, has been declared out with a knee injury. Cornerbacks Corey White (knee) Elbert Mack (concussion) and defensive end Junior Galette (ankle) also have been declared out for Sunday.

Without Mack and White, the Saints have only three healthy cornerbacks and might be forced to use safety Malcolm Jenkins there if there are any more injuries.

On a positive note, running back Darren Sproles is listed as probable and likely will get his first action since breaking his hand on Oct. 28 against the Broncos.

The Carolina Panthers don’t have to hand in a final injury report until Saturday because they play Monday night at Philadelphia. We previously updated the injury situations for Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

Around the NFC South

November, 23, 2012
First off, a reminder that there will be no NFC South chat this week. Now, let’s move onto a quick run through the headlines from around the division.


The injury news was mixed out of Thursday’s practice. Receiver Julio Jones (ankle) returned on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday’s practice. But the news wasn’t as good on linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (ankle). Weatherspoon, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing the past three games, sat out Thursday’s practice and the team said Weatherspoon also had an undisclosed illness. All indications are that Weatherspoon’s ankle has been healing well. If he can shake the illness quickly, I think there’s a good chance he’ll make his return Sunday against Tampa Bay.


Veteran wide receiver Steve Smith sarcastically referred to Monday night’s game against Philadelphia as a “battle of the bads." Can’t argue with him on that. The Panthers and Eagles both are struggling mightily. I’m trying to figure out which team is more dysfunctional. I think we’ll find out an answer Monday night.

Joseph Person has a fine story on Brenda Anderson. She’s the mother of linebacker James Anderson. Brenda Anderson had brain surgery in September and is making a strong recovery.


As the 49ers and Saints get ready to play Sunday, let’s keep in mind that Gregg Williams’ infamous speech came on the eve of last season’s playoff game against the 49ers and several San Francisco players were mentioned in unflattering ways. The 49ers aren’t saying much about Williams’ speech -- at least not publicly. But, if you believe that San Francisco won’t be using that episode as motivation, you don’t know how things work in the NFL. Coaches and players are always looking for motivation.

If injured right tackles Zach Strief and Charles Brown aren’t ready to play Sunday, the Saints say they’re comfortable with going with Bryce Harris as the starter. He stepped in during the last game and did a decent job. But that was against Oakland and San Francisco’s pass rush is a lot better than the Raiders’.

Although San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith has been medically cleared to play, Ed Werder reports that Colin Kaepernick will get the start against the Saints. After watching Kaepernick’s strong performance in his first NFL start against the Bears on Monday night, I don’t think this is particularly good news for the Saints.


The local television blackout in the Tampa Bay area won’t be lifted for Sunday’s game with Atlanta. The Bucs came up short of the 85 percent threshold of selling general-admission seats at Thursday’s deadline. The Bucs are on a four-game winning streak and very much in the playoff picture and the Falcons have the NFC’s best record. I’d like to say it’s surprising that not enough tickets were sold to lift the blackout, but I can’t honestly say I’m surprised. This just shows that even when the Bucs are playing well, other issues (the economy, the transient nature of the local population, etc.) make Tampa Bay a very difficult market.

Wide receiver Arrelious Benn was placed on injured reserve Thursday. The Bucs may miss Benn more as a kick than as a receiver because Tiquan Underwood gives them some depth behind starters Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Rookie running back Michael Smith could be a candidate to take Benn’s place in the return game.

NFC South evening update

November, 19, 2012
Time for a run through the top headlines of the day from around the NFC South.


The agent for backup center/guard Joe Hawley said his client’s four-game suspension is due to using the prescription drug Adderall in September without filling out the proper paperwork with the NFL. It’s unclear if Hawley had a prescription. But NFL rules are very clear that it is a banned substance unless it’s use is approved by the league in individual cases. The agent also said Hawley is not appealing the suspension.

Although cornerback Asante Samuel, receiver Julio Jones and defensive tackle Peria Jerry all were banged up Sunday, coach Mike Smith said Monday he feels comfortable with his team’s injury situation.


Coach Ron Rivera said he’s had several recent conversations with owner Jerry Richardson and knows his future is uncertain in Carolina. It’s good that Rivera recognizes that because it’s pretty obvious to the entire world that he’s on the hot seat. Rivera’s a great guy and I think he could be a successful head coach in the right situation. But, unless the Panthers have some sort of dramatic turnaround in the coming weeks, I don’t see any scenario where Rivera remains as their coach next season.

Defensive end Charles Johnson took to Twitter to imply that some of his teammates are not working hard enough after Carolina’s defense collapsed late in Sunday’s loss to Tampa Bay. It’s good that someone is asking for accountability. But I’m not sure Twitter is the best means to accomplish that. Maybe former general manager Marty Hurney had a point when, on the day he was fired, he said the team didn’t have enough leaders stepping forward. Johnson’s message might carry a little more weight if he delivered it in the locker room instead of on the computer.


After sitting out the first six weeks of the season while recovering from knee problems, Jonathan Vilma is starting to get more playing time at weak-side linebacker. He played on 74 percent of the defensive snaps in Sunday’s victory at Oakland. New Orleans’ maligned defense has started to play better recently and I don’t think that it’s just a coincidence that things have started to turn as Vilma gets more playing time.

Interim head coach Joe Vitt said the knee injury to right tackle Charles Brown still is being evaluated. Brown had been starting in place of Zach Strief, who has been out with a groin injury. Rookie Bryce Harris filled in after Brown’s injury Sunday and Vitt did not rule out the possibility of the Saints signing another tackle for the short term.


Stephen Holder writes that cornerback Aqib Talib’s debut with the Patriots was pretty similar to what he did during his time with the Bucs. Talib had an interception and returned it for a touchdown Sunday, but he also gave up two touchdowns. It’s all or nothing with Talib. He’s talented, but consistency never has been his strong point. The Patriots are finding that out quickly. We’ll see if they also get to find out that Talib has a tendency to find problems off the field.

Speaking of Tampa Bay and the situation at cornerback, Eric Wright sounded a little ominous when he said “we might have to make a decision’’. Wright has been dealing with a linger injury to his Achilles tendon and he at list left the impression that going on injured reserve is a possibility. Beyond Wright, the Bucs don’t have much depth at cornerback.

Inactives for the Saints

October, 21, 2012
TAMPA, Fla. -- The New Orleans Saints just announced their inactives for Sunday’s game with the Buccaneers.

No major surprises. Injured tight end Jimmy Graham and linebacker David Hawthorne are out.

The other inactives are running back Chris Ivory, cornerback Elbert Mack, defensive end Turk McBride, offensive tackle Bryce Harris and defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker.

I'll be back with inactives for the Bucs in a few moments.