It has been six weeks since Charles Harris last played a snap on game day for the Miami Dolphins.
Six weeks that the team’s 2017 first-round pick was idle as he — like so many of his teammates — deals with an injury that was just too much to let him get on the field.
And six weeks that the defensive end has rehabbed in an attempt to return to action at some pint this season.
“We have a lot of empty lockers around here,” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “His is not.”
Sunday should finally be the day Harris returns.
After missing the past five games with a calf injury, Harris does not have an injury designation heading into the Dolphins’ road game against the Indianapolis Colts. For the first time since Oct. 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals (his lone start of the season), Harris will see game action.
“He’s had some time to recover,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “He’s doing a good job in the weight room. I think he feels extremely — as far as his strength goes — probably as good as he’s ever felt. His conditioning, like it always has been, is just off the charts. This is about as good as he’s felt since probably before training camp.”
The Dolphins are hoping that translates into production as Harris returns to the field. Harris, the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft out of Missouri, hopes it gives him a chance to salvage what could otherwise be a lost second season in the league.
Prior to the injury, Harris had recorded 11 tackles, one tackle for loss and a pair of quarterback hits in the span of five games. Ten of those tackles came in a string of games against the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and Bengals before the injury limited him to the sideline on game day.
“I think we have a sense of what he is as a player,” defensive coordinator Matt Burke said. “Obviously he’s had some up-and-down moments and the setback with the injury. I thought before that, those were kind of his best couple of games. You’re hoping you start to see some trends and those things and the consistent level of play.”
But consistency can only come when you have the chance to get on the field. Harris hasn’t had that chance in almost two months.
“It’s disappointing to have the injury and have that setback and have to miss this time,” Burke said. “He’s working his way back in. He’s looked good. He’s looked explosive.”
And his return adds depth to one position where the Dolphins have been thin for most of the season.
The Dolphins lost William Hayes for the year in Week 3 after tearing his ACL against the Oakland Raiders. Wake and Andre Branch both missed multiple games as well. Miami has had to roll with a four-man defensive end rotation for the past seven games after opening the season with five active defensive ends in the first three games.
Maybe an extra body will help, especially as the Dolphins defense faces the challenge of going up against a Colts offensive line that hasn’t given up a sack in five consecutive games.
“You’re at the mercy of nature to some degree,” Wake said. “I see that he’s doing everything he can to make sure he’s on the field when the time is right.”
Sunday is looking like that time.