Before the John Dorsey and Andy Reid regime in Kansas City hired former Packers cornerback Al Harris as a position coach in late January, Harris worked as an assistant during the annual all-star East-West Shrine Game tutoring the defensive backs.
It was over the course of one week in St. Petersburg, Fla. that Kansas safety Bradley McDougald had the opportunity to learn from Harris, for which he was grateful.
"I think he's a great guy," said McDougald at the NFL Combine. "I see he's now with the Kansas City Chiefs. I think he's going to make a great coach.
"He's a very likable person. He's been there, so you're going to respect everything he says because you know it's true. He's been there, done it. You definitely take what he says and run with it."
Harris is currently getting his first taste of coaching at an NFL level now that the Chiefs are entering what is described as Phase 2 of the offseason program.
Teams with new head coaches were allowed to start their programs two weeks ahead of the rest of the league, which began April 1 in Kansas City. Phase 1 lasts two weeks long and is comprised almost exclusively of strength and conditioning.
With the Chiefs beginning Phase 2, Harris is allowed to work players at his position group as a secondary coach in individual drills as of Monday Apr. 15.
Perhaps Harris will be passing on some of the same lessons he taught to McDougald back during Shrine Week.
"Working with Al Harris... everywhere I go I want to pick up at least one thing, and it was just eyes, and stopping double moves," said McDougald. "Different ways to defend the tight ends, taking a step back right when they get the top of their route so they can't push you back two yards when they turn around and catch the ball."
Harris spent 14 seasons in the NFL from 1998 to 2011, the majority of which were with the Packers for seven years from 2003 to 2010. He was a two-time Pro Bowler in 2007 and 2008. Harris was released during the season of Super Bowl XLV following a significant knee injury that included several torn ligaments the previous year.
For McDougald, he's trying to soak up all the coaching possible, whether it's from Harris or anyone else, because he's still relatively new to the safety position.
For his first two seasons at Kansas, McDougald split time on both offense and defense and caught 33 and 19 passes respectively as a receiver during his freshman and sophomore years.
It was during his junior season that the 6-0, 215 lb. NFL Draft prospect switched to defense full time, a move that appears to have paid off. McDougald was named an honorable mention all-conference performer in 2011 and a second-team All-Big XII selection in 2012 after making 92 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Even though McDougald may be lacking experience in some regards on the defensive side of the football, he also feels his background as a receiver does give him a few advantages.
"Coming from the offensive side of the ball, I pick up on route recognition a lot faster than most safeties do," said McDougald. "I read that very well. I kind of got a good flow. I can tell when a receiver's trying to get inside, just because I was on that that side of the ball at one point. So I could kind of read and kind of judge where a receiver's going before he does it.
"Some receivers will try to set you up and make you think otherwise, but in that respect, I feel like I'm kind of rangy. I have a little longer body type; I have more of a receiver body type and kind of build. But I still come downhill and tackle in the box and fit different areas."
McDougald is considered a late-round prospect and could be of interested to a team like the Packers that has a need for depth at the safety position after Charles Woodson was released in the offseason. Perhaps the Jayhawks product could help fill the void.
"I kind of like to think I'm close to Charles Woodson," said McDougald. "I kind of like his game. I kind of like how he plays. He comes down some; he'll be back. He's kind of finesse, got ball skills, but also can tackle."
Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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