The last of the Denver Broncos’ defensive starters who missed the Super Bowl has been cleared to return to practice.
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr., who tore his left ACL in the playoffs and underwent surgery after the season, passed his physical and was taken off the PUP list Tuesday.
Second-year pro Kayvon Webster has been getting the bulk of the first-team snaps during the absence of Harris, who will ease back into the mix, doing individual and 7-on-7 drills at first.
Harris’ ligament wasn’t completely torn when he got hurt against San Diego and the Broncos are optimistic he’ll be able to return to the starting lineup by the season opener Sept. 7 against Indianapolis and resume his role as a leader on Denver’s defense.
”I don’t want to play in the preseason,” Harris said. ”But if I’m ready, then I might play. I think that might be rushing it, but I think the first game, we’ll be good.”
Harris is coming off a big season in which he had 65 tackles, 58 of them solo, three interceptions and 14 pass breakups while allowing the fifth-fewest yards receiving (25 a game) and tying for the eighth-fewest completions allowed (35) in the NFL among players targeted at least 60 times.
Harris will make $2,187,000 this season – or more than 1,000 times the $2,000 signing bonus he received four years ago as an undrafted college free agent.
His emergence and versatility playing both the slot and on the outside helped the Broncos decide to bid farewell to star Champ Bailey this offseason. Then, the signing of fellow University of Kansas alum Aqib Talib led to the departure of free agent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Harris said he’s pain-free and feels his technique is fine because he was able to do a lot of running during his rehab.
”Really, it’s just physically getting in playing shape,” Harris said. ”It’s an interesting position. I’ve never been in this situation. I’ve never had any surgery or any knee injury. This is all new to me, too.”
He said he’ll wear a brace for the next couple of weeks.
”I’m not wearing this brace in a game, though,” Harris insisted. ”Even though they’re going to fight me about it. But, no, I can’t do it. Not in a game.”