The New England Patriots have a huge hole to fill with the retirement of longtime outside linebacker/defensive end Rob Ninkovich.
Not just a hole at that position, but a hole when it comes to leadership. Next to Tom Brady and Julian Edelman, Ninkovich was one of the longest tenured players on the roster and the longest tenured on defense.
There are big shoes to fill in Foxboro and thrusting an unproven Deatrich Wise Jr., a bust in Geneo Grissom and splash Kony Ealy adds more to the uncertainty at who will take the helm.
So, the seniority falls on Patriots signal caller Dont’a Hightower and long time Jets Linebacker David Harris, whom the Patriots signed this offseason and has been taking a lot of snaps with the starters at Training Camp.
Harris insists thought that he is just there to make an impact in any way possible for his new team.
“I’m just trying to come in and contribute any way I can,” Harris said. “Pretty much new here. It’s my first time being around the guys. Trying to learn names and faces and trying to learn the playbook as fast as I can and be ready for when I am on the field.”
Fans may wonder how Hightower has been a leader after starting on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. Harris insists that his transition from the Patriots to the Jets has been much easier with an extremely patient Hightower helping him get up to speed.
“They already have leadership here,” Harris said. “I’m just trying to come in and be a piece of the puzzle, that’s all. I’m trying to learn from guys like (Dont’a) Hightower — who plays the position at a high level for a long time — and trying to pick their brains because I am kind of late picking up things. So I’m trying to make it as fast as possible and get on the same page.”
Harris and Hightower are now the oldest at the linebacker position and replacing Ninkovich will be no small task for these two veterans.