Tuesday, August 15, 2017

SPORTS STORY >> McDonald, Harris get ready

By RAY BENTON Leader sports editor

Jacksonville’s own Clinton McDonald is healthy again and gearing up for a strong return to gridiron with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McDonald, a 2008 graduate of Jacksonville who played college ball for Memphis, suffered a torn pectoral early last season and sat out the rest of the year.

McDonald has been the starting defensive tackle his first two years with Tampa Bay. He signed with the Bucs after working his way up from a practice squad player with Cincinnati his first season, to winning a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks his sixth year in the NFL.

He was making near the league minimum for a veteran the year of the Super Bowl win, but his play on the field earned him a lucrative contract in the free-agent market.

He was, however, listed as the backup to five-time Pro-Bowler Gerald McCoy when the Buccaneers released their first depth chart last week prior to the first preseason game.

However, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter said they only released the depth chart because they had to release one before the game, telling the Tampa Bay media,

“We released a depth chart because we had to release one. You could slash a lot those ones and twos together.”

McDonald was relegated to No. 2 on the depth chart because of the free-agent acquisition of Chris Baker from the Washington Redskins. McCoy has not participated in much live scrimmaging during the preseason, and did not play in the Bucs first preseason game, a 23-12 loss to Cincinnati.

Despite being No. 2 while Baker is listed as a starter, McDonald has shined brighter on the field so far. Koetter singled him out for praise for his performance in an unsanctioned scrimmage during a combined practice with the nearby Jacksonville Jaguars.

Against Cincinnati, McDonald made a strong play on third down to stop a run and forced the Bengals to try a 54-yard field goal. In the third quarter, he made a tackle-for-loss deep in Tampa Bay territory to force another field goal.

The Buccaneers official NFL.com website says of McDonald, “McDonald, who has started all 31 games in which he’s played over three years in Tampa, is listed after McCoy, but is certain to see significant playing time. In fact, when Buccaneers gave McCoy a day of rest on Monday, it was McDonald who soaked up most of his first-team snaps and made a big impact, against the run game.”

Buffalo will play an official preseason game at Jacksonville at 7 p.m. Thursday.


Another Jacksonville graduate, Demetrius Harris, also played his first preseason game of the year with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has not garnered much media attention this preseason, despite being listed as the No. 2 tight end behind Pro Bowler Travis Kelce, who had been inactive with a knee injury until this past Sunday.

Harris caused a brief PR gaffe when he was arrested for possession of marijuana early this summer, but the charges were dropped due to the miniscule amount confiscated and the testimony of the other vehicle passenger that it was theirs. The Chiefs soon announced no disciplinary action would be taken.

Harris has been a project of KC general manager John Dorsey, who signed Harris as a free agent after his senior season of basketball with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

At 6-foot-7, 250 pounds and running a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, Harris has elite size and speed. He got stronger in the weight room and became a better blocker, which earned him more playing time towards the end of last season.

Harris was targeted three times during the 27-17 preseason loss at San Francisco, but finished the game with no receptions.

The Chiefs will be back in action at 6 p.m. Saturday at Cincinnati.