Texans rookie linebacker Christian Harris was sidelined at practice Saturday due to a minor hamstring injury with the soft tissue injury not regarded as a long-term issue, according to an NFL source.
The third-round draft pick from Alabama has turned heads at training camp with his 4.44 speed in the 40-yard dash and his instincts, previously working with the first-team defense as he seeks to make an impact in his first NFL season.
Texans coach Lovie Smith didn't express major concern about Harris' injury.“We'll see," he said. "He's not practicing. Whenever a guy doesn’t practice, he has an injury that's going to require good rehab. We'll kind of let you know a little bit later on. If this was game week, I'd go into it a little bit more in detail but since it's not, he didn’t practice today, and we’ll see about tomorrow.”
Signed to a four-year, $5.34 million contract that includes a $1.069 million contract, the third-round draft pick from Alabama has turned heads at training camp with his ability to run and diagnose plays. The former blue-chip recruit from Baton Rouge, La. is competing for a starting job after concluding his college career with three sacks, four tackles for losses and a forced fumble in a loss to Georgia in the national championship game.
The Texans haven't had major injuries in training camp with tight end Antony Auclair remaining sidelined with a right knee injury sustained early in training camp.
Auclair is expected to be able to return at some point this season as it's not regarded as a long-term injury.
Rookie offensive guard Kenyon Green, a first-round draft pick from Texas A&M hasn't practiced the past few days due to a knee injury. He walked off the field under his own power earlier this week and is expected to return in the preseason.
Wide receiver Chester Rogers turned his ankle while catching a pass earlier this week and isn't practicing. Defensive ends Rasheem Green and Ogbo Okoronkwo didn't practice, but neither injury is regarded as serious. Wide receiver Drew Estrada (leg) and long snapper Jon Weeks aren't practicing.
Weeks is expected to return in a few days.
"We have a couple guys that are out, I guess Christian Harris has been added to injured list a little bit," Smith said. "Kenyon Green, those guys continue to get better. We'll see when they get back.”
Harris has speed to burn as a versatile sideline-to-sideline defender. The converted safety is off to a fast start with the Texans.
“I think he probably is the fastest linebacker in the room," Texans veteran linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "This kid can fly. He's smart. He's bright. He's super athletic. When we're in the weight room, I think that he's like in every competition, whether it's the vertical, speed, he's at least top-5. This kid is super talented, young, fresh and he's ready to learn. When you have a guy of that caliber, he’s going to go a long way. He’s going to have a great career in the league.”
Harris, who aced the NFL scouting combine with a 9.05 Relative Athletic score, had 80 tackles last season, 12 1/2 for losses and 5 1/2 sacks. The former freshman All-American and freshman All-Southeastern Conference selection had two forced fumbles and was a semifinalist for the Butkus and Lombardi awards.
"I would say first and foremost he is an elite athlete,"" Texans linebackers coach Miles Smith said. Obviously, we all know that. We saw the combine. We saw what he’s able to do. I’ve been most impressed with his ability to grasp the defense and learn the mental aspects of the game. He’s attacked it every day with good work ethic and couldn’t be more impressed.
We always say the best attribute for a player in our defense is speed. So, just bringing that element, 4.4 speed every down I think is going to show dividends when we get to the season. He’s able to make some plays that others aren’t just because of his raw athletic ability. Now, it’s our job just to teach him the defense and allow him to play fast."
Aaron Wilson is a Pro Football Network reporter and a contributor to Sports Talk 790.