When Lamar Miller and Olivier Vernon left in free agency this past offseason, the Dolphins lost their only two players who grew up in South Florida and attended the University of Miami.
They now have another who fits that unique criteria: Brandon Harris, who on Sunday joined a crowded competition for the Dolphins’ final cornerback job.
The former Hurricanes and Booker T. Washington standout hopes to revive a career sidetracked 14 months ago by a torn ACL in his left knee.
“It is so special to be at home, going back to the same stadium … that allowed me this opportunity to be in the NFL, where I made my name on a national stage,” said Harris, who joins former Melbourne Central High alum Rashawn Scott as the only former Hurricanes on the Dolphins’ roster. “I am excited to play in front of my family and friends every day in training camp.”
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After tearing the ACL in his left knee at a Tennessee Titans minicamp practice in June 2015, Harris sat out last season, then visited the Dolphins for a medical checkup in May.
The Dolphins called him last week and asked him to audition Saturday, along with two other corners: former Ravens and Patriots corner Rashaan Melvin and ex-Chicago Bear Albert Louis-Jean. Melvin was signed after the workout, but Harris left without an offer.
“Figured I would get ready for my next move, and then I get a call early [Sunday] morning [from the Dolphins] saying come on back,” he said.
Harris said his knee simply wasn’t ready earlier this offseason. Now, “the knee feels great. First time I’ve been in pads since the last regular season game of 2014.”
Harris posted on Instagram that it has “been a long year of recovery after tearing my ACL. I cried so many nights fearing I'll never play again, that all changed this morning. Miami I'm Home.”
Harris has played in 42 NFL games but has started none of them and has no interceptions.
Drafted in the second round (60th overall) by Houston in 2011, he appeared in 31 games over three seasons for the Texans, who cut him before the start of the 2014 season. He played 11 games for the Titans in 2014.
Coach Adam Gase said Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph likes Harris, whom he coached in Houston.
“I would have liked to have had more of a household name at this point,” Harris said. “I take pride in playing physical. Playing with a lot of energy is my biggest strength.”
Harris, 5-10, said he has played most of his NFL snaps in the slot. “That’s where I am most comfortable [but] I am excited to go outside a little bit, too,” he said.
After cutting Tyler Patmon on Sunday, the Dolphins now have several defensive backs competing in the slot: Bobby McCain, safety Michael Thomas, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Harris and rookie seventh-round pick Jordan Lucas.
With Xavien Howard recovering from knee surgery, the 6-2 Melvin gives Miami another option on the boundary, with projected starters Byron Maxwell and Tony Lippett, plus Chimdi Chekwa. Olomu and Lucas also can play outside.
Melvin, cut by the Patriots in May, said his strength is “putting my hands on guys and being a physical corner, using my size to my advantage.”
On adding two corners and cutting one this weekend, Gase said: “We want competition. If we feel like it’s time to move on from somebody, we’re going to do it and try to bring somebody else in.”
This and that
▪ Ryan Tannehill completed a perfect 40-yard sideline pass to DeVante Parker, who extended over Lippett.
▪ Andrew Franks kicked a 59-yard field goal and continues his very good summer, dating back to May practices.
▪ With Branden Albert given the day off, Laremy Tunsil opened with the starters at left tackle.
▪ Sam Young and Chris McCain got into a brief shoving match after a drill.
▪ Dolphins quarterbacks haven’t thrown an interception in three days of camp.