ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There are two reasons why Shelby Harris has become one of the Broncos’ most popular players the past four years.
One, he’s a good player. A highly productive defensive lineman who has made his share of game-winning plays whether it’s deflecting a field goal at the buzzer in the 2017 opener, or intercepting Big Ben in the end zone in 2018, or knocking down a 2-point conversion attempt against the Raiders in 2019.
And two, Harris has always been transparent. He doesn’t hide or guard. He’s an open book. And his battle with coronavirus – first as a close contact with his wife and kids; then as positive case – was something he wanted to share.
“For me, my only symptoms were I had the chills and the cold sweats for a day or two and I was pretty much fine,’’ Harris said in a Zoom media call Friday. After missing the past four games for COVID reasons, Harris will return to play Sunday night when the Broncos visit the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. “It was really more the aftereffects that kind of got to me -- just like weird nerve pains and stuff that was unexplainable. I'm telling you, that stuff was just crazy. I'm just happy to be back and happy to be healthy—like really, truly happy to be healthy.”
The side effects?
“It was just waking up in a pool of sweat,’’ he said. “It was weird headaches and I just didn’t feel right. It was just weird. It was the weird nerve pain. For me, that was crazy. The only reason I say all this stuff is because we don’t know much about COVID. We need to be open about the experiences we have because more than likely people have been going through things that they may not realize are associated with COVID or not associated with COVID. No one is really talking about it. Usually, I’m not going to get into my health problems, but I feel like with COVID and everything going on, we have to be able to talk about this stuff.”
Harris had led Broncos defensive linemen with 242 defensive snaps (60.7 percent), through seven games. As he works his way back into shape, he won’t play more than 50 percent of the snaps against the Chiefs.
“He won’t be able to play his normal allotment of plays,’’ said Broncos’ coach Vic Fangio. “We’re going to have to get him in and out of there a bunch. But yes we’re anticipating him playing unless he has any setbacks.”
Andy’s beautiful mind
The NFL has always had a chicken-and-the-egg discussion when it comes to a team’s legendary coach and star quarterback. It may have started in the 1930s with Green Bay’s Curly Lambeau and Arnie Herber, and the 1940s with the Chicago Bears’ George Halas and Sid Luckman. It transferred to the Steelers’ Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw in the 1970s, the 49ers’ Bill Walsh and Joe Montana in the 1980s and more recently with the Patriots’ Bill Belichick and Tom Brady in the ought’s and ‘10s.
And then there’s Chiefs’ head coach and offensive play caller Andy Reid and his incomparable quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Fangio has been saying Reid, in his 22nd season as NFL head coach, has improved as a play caller – as Fangio said last week about the Saints’ Sean Payton – because of experience.
But in Reid’s case, Fangio added another factor.
“His weapons allow him to be a really good play caller,’’ Fangio said. “The quarterback (Mahomes) is special. The receivers (led by Tyreek Hill) are special. The tight end (Travis Kelce) is special. They’ve got two really good running backs now (Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell). He’s got a lot available to him to call.
“They’ll spread you out a good bit, more than most teams. He’s having fun with it. And he’s doing a great job, too.”
The Chiefs lead the NFL with 425.8 yards per game and are second in points at 31.6 (a sliver behind Green Bay’s 31.7).
The Broncos, meanwhile, rank 27th with 325.2 yards per game and next-to-last with 19.0 points. As football is played on a 100-yard field, it’s probably not good to trail your AFC West rival by an average of 100 yards.
Fangio said he was confident defensive coordinator Ed Donatell could make the trip to Kansas City and work from the coaches’ box after recovering enough from his five-week bout with COVID. One concern is the night game means hitting his bed back home at a wee-hour-in-the-morning “and interrupting his rest that he’s been doing,’’ Fangio said. “So we’re going to decide by Saturday whether he goes or not.” …
Running back Phillip Lindsay (knee), edge rusher Malik Reed (shin) and receiver Jerry Jeudy (ankle) are all listed as questionable but will play. …
Left tackle Garett Bolles has yet to see a nickel of the new four-year, $68 million contract extension he got last week. It includes a $20 million signing bonus, but he won’t get his first $10 million installment until Christmas Day. His second $10 million installment will be on tax day, April 15, when he will be reminded just how much taxes will be taken out (about 40 percent). Bolles isn’t complaining, but it is always jolting for athletes when they realize just how much Uncle Sam takes away. …
Demar Dotson will start at right tackle, ahead of Elijah Wilkinson against the Chiefs. …
The game Sunday against the Saints was an unforeseen disgrace, but a disgrace nevertheless to all of Broncos Country. How did the players respond this week? “I think they responded tremendously,’’ Fangio said. “I think after the game obviously it was fresh. It was fresh on Monday. I don’t see any hangover effect from it during practice. Which is where I think you would see it the most, and be most concerned if you saw it. I think they’ve handled it tremendously.”