FOXBOROUGH – If the Patriots find themselves playing in the heat and humidity for the season opener Sept. 7 in Miami, Duron Harmon will be ready.
The second-year safety, along with fellow 2013 draft pick and ex-Rutgers teammate Logan Ryan, visited a hot yoga studio more than once this offseason, pushing through the mental and physical discomfort of doing the triangle pose in a room heated to over 100 degrees.
“Whew! Yeah, it was a new [experience],” Harmon said Tuesday afternoon, laughing at the memories. “The first two, three days I almost cramped up in there, I had to take a couple of breaks. But it was a great experience because not only did it help with flexibility, it helped with mental toughness, being in those poses in the heat for so long and [you] really have to talk to yourself to keep holding that pose for as long as the instructor said.
“The toughest pose was probably at the beginning when you had to hold downward dog for like 30 seconds and I’m sitting there, my hamstrings are on fire, I’m like we just started, I’m not really warmed up and then the sweat starts to trickle down, but it was a great experience and something I definitely look forward to doing each offseason.”
Harmon was another in a line of Patriots picks whom draft experts thought the team “reached” to get. The Delaware native was the 91st pick, so lightly regarded by the draft literati that network announcers had no information to offer viewers when he was selected.
But Harmon worked diligently and wound up playing in every game save the season opener, with three starts. He credits Devin McCourty, who also guided him at Rutgers, along with a now-former teammate, for helping him along.
“You can even start with Steve Gregory, being able to pick his brain last year. I say it all the time, that guy was really like my uncle — if I wasn’t sitting next to him, I was sitting next to Dev,” Harmon said. “Those two guys just really helped me mature so much when it comes to football over the past year. I’m just very, very appreciative to them because they’re like — they’re really good football players and then they’re smart players as well, so you get to utilize that on the field. When you get the good football player with the smarts, that’s when players turn into great players.”
Harmon was unable to take part in New England’s on-field offseason workouts last year because of injury, but he’s finding that having a year under his belt is paying big dividends this spring.
“Everything is actually starting to slow down now and I’m feeling more comfortable out here,” he said. “Your first year, all you’re thinking about, literally, is not messing up. You’re not really worried about reading splits, different formations, you’re just worried about doing your job and that only.
“But now, when you have a year in the playbook, you’re now able to take a deep breath, see what your job is and then look around the whole formation, see maybe if this receiver’s cut, you know what tends to come from there, or if this tight end is flexed or if this back is there . . . you’re a little bit more prepared for everything and it allows everything to slow down.”
That’s good news for the Patriots, who may be ready to give Harmon a starting safety job alongside McCourty. Thus far in workouts, it is Harmon who has gotten most of the reps with McCourty, though Patrick Chung has gotten a few. On Tuesday, as other members of the defense worked on the far field, Harmon, McCourty and cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner were huddled with cornerbacks coach Josh Boyce on the near field.
Bill Belichick said not to look too much into personnel groupings this time of year, but looking at that quartet, it’s hard not to think they’ll be starters, though Browner has to serve a four-game suspension.
For Harmon, who took his first cruise with his girlfriend during the offseason, earning that starting job would be a dream come true.
“It would mean the world. That’s what we all dream of when we’re little, to be a starter in the NFL,” he said. “I think it’s just one of the many goals that I have for my life, playing in the NFL, to be a starter.
“I’m going to keep preparing like I am the starter because you never know when your opportunity is coming. I did well preparing like a starter last year, going home, watching film, being under Steve Gregory and Devin, and I ended up getting three starts. So you never know when it’s going to happen, so you need to always prepare like a starter.”
Even if that preparation means suffering through what feels like an interminable amount of time in downward dog pose in a room heated to unnatural temperatures.