Macho Harris goes from flag football to Redskins
New Redskins safety Macho Harris played 15 games with the Eagles last season, but after being cut at the end of training camp, he was out of organized football this fall. That wasn't an easy transition.
"Just watching these past 10 weeks, watching these guys go hard every Sunday, I've just been dying to get back out there with them," he told Comcast SportsNet's Chick Hernandez on Tuesday night. "So now that I've got this opportunity, especially at a place that I've been dying to be at, this is like a dream come true."
And during those weeks while Harris was dying to get back out there, he got some game-day experience in at least one unusual place: the Fairfax County Flag Football League.
See, there's this team in the top division called Novacaine, comprised mostly of players from Robinson High's 2001 state championship team. Mike Imoh -- the former Virginia Tech star -- helped lead that Robinson team, and he and Hokies teammates Brenden Hill and D.J. Parker occasionally came out to play with Novacaine this fall. Early in the season, they told the team's player-coach, Patrick Laiti, that Harris might be available.
"I was like, 'Um, ok, that sounds great," Laiti told me. "Obviously."
So Harris came to one early game and mostly just watched. He came back in late September and played both ways in the 8-on-8 league, catching a 70-yard touchdown pass in Novacaine's 21-20 comeback win.
"He played really well, actually. needless to say," said Laiti, who comes from one of Northern Virginia's most accomplished football families. "He was a good team player, out there to support the cause and help us win."
And while it makes for a great headline -- from flag football to the NFL! -- Harris wasn't terribly out of place on that regulation-sized field. The Fairfax league, which has been around for more than 30 years, has four divisions, and the top level is littered with former Division I players. Novacaine, for example, has also received contributions from former Wake Forest RB Lucas Caparelli and former Notre Dame WR Chase Anastasio.
"It's competitive, but I try to keep my boundaries because I know that this ain't the NFL, so kind of go with the punches a little bit," Harris told The Post's Barry Svrluga. "I was like, I'll come out there just to keep me in shape after I work out or something like that.' So that's all I was doing, just polishing my technique and staying in shape."
The commissioner, Tom Vincent, estimated that 10 percent of the elite rosters are made up of Division I alums, and that five or six guys with pro experience come out every season. Recent players have included a 49ers defensive back, a Packers wide receiver, an Eagles defensive back and former Redskins running back Reggie Evans.
"Some teams start to get these guys, and other teams say hey, we've got to keep up with the Joneses, so, who'd you go to college with, or I saw so-and-so at the county fair...." he told me. "I'm a big NFL fan, and once in a while I see somebody out there I kind of recognize, and I go home look at the roster and say oh wow."
The league is full contact at the line of scrimmage, and downfield chucking is allowed, though the "tackles" themselves are obviously non-contact. After his one star turn with Novacaine, Harris never returned, and the players knew he would likely wind up on an NFL roster. The team is made up almost entirely of diehard Redskins fans, so there were text messages and phone calls on Tuesday when they found out Harris would be staying local.
Bearing in mind that a flag football game against a team called the "Rejects" is different than the NFL, I asked Laiti for a scouting report on the newest Redskin.
"He's very fast, obviously has great ball skills," he told me. "Flag football is obviously a very different game than real football. He played really well for us, but I don't think that does justice to how good of player he is. I think he'll do really well with the Redskins. I think he'll fit in perfectly with that team."
(Thanks to everyone on Twitter who helped me with this, and to 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen for breaking the flag football news.)
| November 24, 2010; 9:42 AM ET
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