He makes big plays as a run stuffer and blitzer and shows a consistent ability to change a game. He simply makes plays. He is a free agent and doesn't know how much
he will make or where he will play this season. The Saints plan to re-sign him after the lockout. The front seven looks to be vastly improved so he could have a big season in 2011.
In the following Q&A session Harper talks about his free agent status, NFL owners, NFC South quarterbacks and the Saints defense:
Q:How are you dealing with the lockout?
RH: I've worked out at my high school (Plattville, Ala.) and with the Saints. We put in a big workout thing at Tulane. Got some really good work in with some 7-on-seven drills and a little bit of team stuff so that was very good for us. I'm going to work out at Alabama this month, basically just trying to do everything I can do the things that you naturally do on the football field, trying to incorporate those things into your workouts and your weight lifting.
Q: The NFL labor laws prevented you from becoming an unrestricted free agent. What was you mindset going into last season and how did you deal with that situation?
RH: That was all I had on my mind. I wanted to get a new deal done. I wanted to get an extension, but the Saints didn't have to pay me. I know how teams work and how people work. In the business world, if I don't have to pay this person more money, then I'm probably not going to. It's not like I'm going to do it out of the generosity in my heart because you know the owners and managers are trying to make as much money as they can anyway. If they make more sales, more ticket sales, more drinks and keep winning while paying the players less and less then that's more money in their pockets.
So, I understood that and decided that if I didn't get anything done before the season, then I didn't want to work on anything or hear and offers during the season I just wanted to go out there and be the best player I could be by performing and producing every week.
Q: Depending on how the labor agreement pans out, you might be in the same situation as last year or you might not even be with the Saints. Are you approaching this season like last year?
RH: I don't worry about money because at the end of the day I can't control that. I know that if I go out there and continue to play, my value will rise because they'll see the type of player I am. I did that last year even though this year's a different mindset. I know that I've done so much that God's going to bless me when it 's time for me to get my money.
Q: Last season, you payed a total of 934 snaps on defense and you were asked to play pass coverage on 462 of them. With NFL offenses using more empty backfield sets and throwing more what are you doing to continue to improve in coverage?
RH: You've got to improve on man-to-man coverage. The biggest thing is on third-and-long. We have to find ways to get off the field. We've got to understand what teams are going to try and do. Teams are going to try to get rid of the ball quickly against us because they don't want our offense on the field. They understand that our defense breathes upon turnovers. So they try to do little things, quick throws, get the ball out, not do too much or too exotic so that our blitz packages can't affect their quarterback. At the end of the day, we've got to make plays on third downs and get off the field and we'll be just fine.
ACTIVE COMMUNITY GROUPS
Q: You've had the good fortune of not having to play against Drew Brees. Talk about the other three young quarterbacks in the NFL South.
RH: Cam Newton is going to be a monster. l He just has to get in time in this league to become outstanding. You've got Matt Ryan, who is clearly a big-time talent for Atlanta. He's still improving and he's been able to turn that program around to the point where they've got a home field advantage there and they've got weapons.
Q: Because of the lockout, players and coaches haven't been able to spend time in the off-season diving into playbooks and schemes. How much of an advantage do the Saints have with leaders like Brees, Jon Vilma and yourself there to make sure there is continuity going into 2011?
RH: We'll have a slight advantage, but football is so crazy, you never know what will happen on any given Sunday. When a team gets hot at the right time that's all that really maters. These teams get hot and then they're rolling.
Progress report on NFL lockout meetings:
1. Monday's labor talks will be lawyers only.
2. Stalemate arises over rookie wage scale.
3. Owners and players expected to arrive on Tuesday or Wednesday to resume labor talks.
4. Timetables continue to be guessed at.
5. Optimism remains.
SOME hither, others yon: Here's betting a labor deal will be worked out by the middle of July. Why the urgency? The real pain would come from canceling preseason game, which, from the owners' perspective is the easiest scam of all scams. They charge full price for meaningless games in which they sit the stars, play the reserves, and pay peanuts to everyone on the roster. Wiping out a week of preseason games would be incredibly costly...
The concept of an l8-game schedule is either dead or in deep freeze. Who will win the labor battle? The players would have played with the old agreement. This will not be a case of who wins -- the owners will wind up with the improved deal -- but by how much? There won't be any dancing in the end zone when this is over. The news release will say how the league worked it out for the fans and for the good of the game. Resist the urge to roll your eyes...
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson on the Tigers quarterback situation: "You hear it a lot that Zach Mettenberger will take over the starting position, but in reality I will be the starter hands down. Even though I know I'm the starter, you also have to stay humble at times because you never know what can happen. I'm doing the best of my abilities to teach Mettenberger the full game since I've here for three years. There's going to come a time where he will be the starter so just passing down the knowledge will benefit him a lot."....Parting thought: "I hope life isn't a joke because I don't get it."
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