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Inside Story: Harris Back, Kassell Out, Bowens Up


Lost in the Brett Favre hullabaloo at Jets training camp today was the fact that David Harris made his return to the practice field.

The second-year linebacker suffered a leg injury that had him relegated to stationary-bike status for almost two weeks. But his recovery comes just in time as the Jets are short at inside linebacker with Brad Kassell lost on IR for the season with a right knee injury.

Harris didn't speak with reporters after practice, but his teammates on defense were ecstatic about his coming back.

"It's great," said David Bowens. "With a young guy like that with his talent, it's a pleasure to see him go out and play hard every day. He's very tough. He won't shy away from any kind of contact and he hustles all the time. Just watching him makes everybody else raise their game."

As a rookie, Harris broke out in the second half of last season. In nine starts he recorded a team-leading 117 tackles, tied for the team lead with five sacks and emerged as a leader on defense.

"We know what he can do from last year and we just want him to come out and continue where he left off," safety Kerry Rhodes said. "He's a playmaker, and that's what you want on defense. You're going to have your solid guys, but you need guys who can step up and make plays."

Bowens, the 10th-year man who is making a switch from outside to inside linebacker and thus has been under Harris' tutelage, said that it's the youngster's savvy and knowledge that is most needed.

"The thing with David is that he anticipates a lot," Bowens said. "I learned a long time ago that if you can anticipate where things are going, you're a step ahead. He understands his read responsibilities and before the play is run, he's almost there already."

With Kassell out, a greater onus will be placed on Bowens to adjust to and be effective at inside linebacker. Bowens, who has been used as a defensive end and outside linebacker throughout his 10-year career, will have his versatility tested this season as he becomes the primary backup to Harris and Eric Barton.

"It probably means more playing time for me, especially if anything else happens," said Bowens, who added that he hasn't played inside in over 13 years. "It puts more pressure on me because mentally I have to really push myself to get this stuff down before the preseason is over with.

"I have to get all the communication we need down pat as far as making line and secondary adjustments. I'm in charge of all that."

Physically, he said, the new role requires him to absorb more contact and fend off blocking offensive guards. Bowens has also slimmed down to 257 pounds and plans to lose five more before the season opener.

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