ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) – Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. believes he is faster than Adrian Peterson – at recovering from a torn ACL, anyway.
Two years ago, Peterson returned to the Minnesota backfield just 8 1/2 months after reconstructive surgery. Harris needed less than seven months to mend his surgically repaired left knee.
“I beat A.P.’s record,” said Harris, who expects to suit up Sunday night in the season opener against Indianapolis. “Just amazing what I did, coming back so fast from this injury. I put in a lot of work. You will all be amazed when you see me out there moving.”
Harris didn’t play a single snap in the preseason, simply as a precaution. Instead, he sharpened his coverskills each day in practice by going up against Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. He was picked on quite often by Peyton Manning.
Nothing personal, of course. Just had to see if Harris was prepared. He passed the test.
“I’m ready to hit somebody and turn into a monster out there,” Harris said.
He certainly had a monster season in 2013, playing in all 16 games – starting 15 – and finishing the regular season with 65 tackles, three interceptions and 13 pass breakups.
Harris partially tore his ACL in a divisional playoff game against San Diego, sidelining him for the AFC Championship contest and the Super Bowl.
Following surgery in February, Harris said he hasn’t missed a rehab session. Not one, which he credits for his speedy return to the field.
And like Peterson, who returned from his knee injury to capture the 2012 NFL MVP award, Harris is hoping to come back stronger than before.
“As the season goes on, I’m going to keep getting better and better with my injury,” he said. “Because I’ve worked my tail off.”
He received quite a salary bump, too. Harris signed a one-year restricted free-agent tender for $2,187,000 on April 1. That’s 1,000 times more than the $2,000 signing bonus he received four years ago as an undrafted college free agent out of Kansas.
The 25-year-old Harris will be paired with fellow Jayhawk Aqib Talib in the secondary. Harris was a freshman at Kansas in 2007 when Talib was an All-American his junior year.
“Chris looks so good out there,” said Talib, who left New England and signed a six-year, $57 million deal with the Broncos last spring. “He’s real vocal. He helps me out while he’s out there. He helps a lot of guys out when he’s out there, and he’s anxious to get back out there himself. He’s been cleared. He’s ready to go.”
Although his knee feels strong, Harris said he still needed to “teach it my defensive back stuff.” He said he can cut on it just fine, and practicing against the Houston Texans two weeks ago allowed him to clear a big mental hurdle.
“I pushed (the knee) to the limit,” Harris said. “The only thing you can do to continue to improve is keep playing, keep practicing. I’m ready to act like a fool out there (Sunday). I’m ready to let go, let loose.”
Harris, Talib and the rest of the secondary will have their hands full covering the likes of Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks. Then there is Andrew Luck, who threw for 3,822 yards and 23 TDs last season.
Quite an opening assignment.
“I feel if I can cover D.T. and Sanders, I can cover these receivers,” Harris said. “I have 100 percent confidence that I can go out there and shut down (receivers).”
By PAT GRAHAM, AP Sports Writer
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