When he played at Oregon, Cliff Harris was a supreme playmaker. He was, by college standards, a shutdown cornerback. He was an electrifying return man. Basically, Cliff Harris did what Cliff Harris wanted on the football field.
Off the field was another question, and some of the issues he had were the reasons Harris went undrafted in April. So when the Eagles signed him after the draft, many fans looked at the name and figured Harris' natural talent would make up for any other shortcomings and that he would make a serious run at a roster spot.
Didn't happen. Harris is among the first wave of cuts as the Eagles, prior to Monday at 4 p.m., get down to 75 players on the way to 53 players for the regular season.
Why didn't Harris make the cut here? At the top of the list is the idea that he didn't play well enough to beat out a talented group of cornerbacks, and it's hard to dispute that after watching practice every day and after three preseason games. Harris needs to add strength and he needs to refine his technique and he still needs to learn to approach the game as a professional. Talent alone doesn't get it done in this league. Every player has talent.
But there are some other reasons, perhaps, why Harris didn't progress quickly enough for the coaches to keep him around. That he missed all of the Organized Team Activites because of a sllly and stupid NCAA rule that forced him to wait until Oregon's graduation didn't help. Had Harris been a Certified Public Accountant, I wonder, would his job have been shelved until the Class of 2012 at Oregon graduated?
Missing all of that time was something from which Harris could never recover. He missed one-on-one time with coach Todd Bowles. He missed learning the ways of the NFL at the NovaCare Complex, and instead was thrown right into the mix at training camp.
There, Harris shined for a few days, suffered a sprained ankle and then was never the same player. He had an interception on Friday night, a nice diving catch of a pass that linebacker Keenan Clayton tipped. The credit mostly goes to Clayton on that play, but Harris showed his nose for the ball and his athletic ability to dive and make the catch.
Let's hope Harris doesn't give up the dream. Let's hope he has grown up enough to accept this rejection and to turn it into a positive and work harder than he thought possible to get back into an NFL locker room.
With cornerbacks like Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a vastly-improved Curtis Marsh, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes and Trevard Lindley, the Eagles didn't have any need to keep Harris around for another week. His is the first "name" of the initial wave of cuts. There are going to be more "names."
Well, coaches don't care about "names" on their roster. They care about players, and keeping the best 53 is the objective here, and in the other 31 cities around the NFL. Harris came with pomp and circumstance, and he knows today more than ever what a cruel, harsh world this can be.