ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Three plays into Sunday's game with the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck fired a pass in Chris Harris Jr.'s direction.
Playing five yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap, he saw the pass come towards his man, Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton got the first down, catching the pass at the Denver 46-yard-line, but Harris broke back with precision and speed, crashing into Hilton, knocking him back two yards and preventing any yardage after the reception.
The explosive Hilton had been held in check for one play. And Harris, in his first game action since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament Jan. 12, made a stop like so many in his previous three seasons, arose and went back to work for another play.
After an offseason spent on the rehabilitation field and a preseason in which he was forced to increase his workload in small increments, Harris was back.
"After I made the first tackle, I was like, 'Okay, I'm good,'" Harris said, smiling. "It was just so fun, to go out there and play."
He did not play all of the Broncos' 31-24 win. When the Colts were attempting their last-ditch drive to tie the game in the final three minutes, Harris stood on the sideline, helmet off, watching Aqib Talib, Bradley Roby and Tony Carter work. "Fatigue," as he later described, got the best of him, after not having any preseason game work to get ready for Sunday.
"I've just got to work myself back," Harris said. "I felt like I did enough for the first game, and then I'll just continue to get in better shape each week. (It's) just kind of something that I understood going in."
Hilton's reception was one of two Harris allowed for 16 yards in 39 snaps Sunday, representing 53 percent of the plays run by the Colts. He expects that share of the work to increase next week.
"I feel good," Harris said. "I'm just going to continue to get better and get in shape. That's all it is, man. You can't get in shape unless you play.
"Next week against the Chiefs, I should be good. I've got to finish that game. That will be the next goal for me. My first goal was to play in this game, my next goal is to finish the game. I'm just taking baby steps."
In the meantime, Harris' work and the deactivation of Kayvon Webster allowed Roby to play 63 of 74 snaps Sunday. Roby worked from the slot, heeding Harris' advice along the way.
"That's tough to do, to play the slot," said Harris, who worked from the slot the last two and a half seasons. "That's the role we're looking for him to play. With me playing outside this year, we're looking for 'Rob' to shut down the inside, and I think he did a good job."
So did Harris, which leaves the Broncos' cornerback corps in good shape.