Certain patterns and themes emerge in interviews when you do enough of them. When it comes to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris, one of the things he is most asked about is the expectation of him becoming a vocal leader this year. And then there’s the questions about workload.
Why does he keep getting asked about the same things he’s answered time and again? You already know the answer, I hope. It’s because he’s a good quote. You tell people what they want to hear in an entertaining fashion and you’re going to be answering that question again and again.
So of course Harris was asked about workload and endurance when he hopped on the All Things Covered podcast yesterday with former Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden interview him, as it turned out, between workouts. Asked how his body held up his rookie season after leading the league in touches, he brushed it off.
“It was good. That ain’t nothing”, he said. “I have no life. I train every day. I’m in the middle of training right now, actually. After I’m done with this, I’m gonna go work out on the field right now. I have nothing to do in my life. I train every single day. I’ve probably trained too much”.
Last week, of course, he told reporters that he would have no problem with touching the ball 500 times this season if that’s what it took for the Steelers to win. Because, and I’m going to be honest here, he still has that youthful naivety in believing that as long as he trains hard enough, his body can withstand anything for any duration.
History has proven that years of heavy workloads for running backs has a cumulative effect on their performance and their bodies, however. Harris is young and fresh still. It will be years before he really starts to feel these serious effects. But he does sound like somebody who seems to think that he can be the same player from a physical conditioning and endurance standpoint 10 years from now. And let’s just say not many running backs even get a chance to test out that theory.
“But that stuff right there, having that workload on you, it was nothing I haven’t had before”, Harris said, though his career-high in touches for a single season at Alabama was under 300. He recorded 381 touches last season, or 395 if you include the postseason. “I wanted to have more carries, to be honest with you. It doesn’t affect me, off the fact that I train my body to withstand that type of stuff”.
I love Najee. I love the fact that he’s himself. I love his skill set, his passion, his dedication, his charity work. I’d love for him to be right about his conditioning. I just don’t think he will be, in the long run.
That won’t be an issue in 2022. It shouldn’t be a major concern in the immediate future. But it catches up with you eventually. Yet at the end of the day, I want my running back to want to touch the ball on every play, anyway.