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Shelby Harris returned to Broncos to 'be a part of something special'

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As defensive lineman Shelby Harris surveyed his options in free agency, he identified the Broncos as his ideal landing spot.

And when the free-agent market led him back to Denver, he quickly moved to accept the team's offer to return on a one-year contract.

"It was about the fit," Harris said on a conference call Friday. "I had always said I wanted to come back to Denver. When that opportunity came up, I decided to just jump on it. I feel like I can be a part of something special. I feel like this team has a chance to do something good. I feel like I could definitely help the team out. I wanted to try to play my part and come back and try to lead this team to greener pastures."

Harris spoke with Head Coach Vic Fangio before making the move official, and he said that conversation helped solidify his choice to return to Denver.

"I think that it helped out a good amount just for him to reach out and just ask if I wanted to come back," Harris said. "It made me feel wanted. I wanted to come back. This was clearly my first choice of where to go. Just to feel wanted back I was like, 'OK, yeah, I'll do it.'"

Harris will re-join a defensive line that now features Jurrell Casey, and Harris is eager to learn from the five-time Pro Bowler.

"From what I do know, I know that he's a hell of a player," Harris said. "I can't wait to play with him. Hopefully he can teach me some new things because I'm always open to learning from guys who obviously have been around the league a little bit longer than me. For me, I'm just excited."

Other highlights from Harris' conversation with Denver media:

Football isn't his biggest concern right now.

Asked if he expected the NFL to play games this year in wake of the COVID-19, Harris said he thought there indeed would be football "eventually."

He quickly pivoted, though, to more important matters.

"Obviously, you want to go out there and work, but you want to be safe," Harris said. "You want to do your part for the community just like they're doing their part for us — social distancing and stuff. However long this needs to go, I'm all for it. It's about the masses, not just the single person. I'm worried about people bringing it to my grandma, bringing it to my mom, bringing it to my family. I just think the most important thing right now is just to focus on social distancing. Also I feel like we have to give our thanks out to the nurses and the doctors and the first responders … and then everyone that has the essential jobs that really are out there putting their lives on the line just to make sure that we can kind of have our life continue as normal. … There are literally people putting their lives and their family on the line so that we can somehow live. Out of respect for them, we have to do what's best for the community and not try and rush anything."

Harris returned to the same sentiment when asked why he signed a less lucrative, shorter deal than some other defensive linemen on the market. 

"At the end of the day, we can go back and forth about why this and why that," Harris said. "At the end of the day, I'm just happy to have a job. There are millions of Americans who have lost their jobs because of this. I'd rather just focus on the fact that I have a job than — if you want to talk about numbers at the end of the day we should just be happy, we should just be blessed to be able to be employed and to have a job. It's bigger than that right now. I think the important thing is that I do have a job. I'm able to provide for my family, but there are a lot of people who can't. … I can't get mad about how things happen with other people when there are so many people in the world and in America right now who can't even say they have a job because they lost it because of the coronavirus. I'm just happy that I'm able to say that I have a job."

He expects to continue to play defensive end.

During the first four games of the season, Harris started for the Broncos at nose tackle and didn't record a sack. That then changed, as Mike Purcell slotted in at nose and Harris slid over to the defensive end position. 

From that spot, Harris recorded six sacks over the remaining 12 games and made a far greater impact.

"I see myself still playing end," Harris said. "We have a beast at nose in Mike Purcell. I think he's a monster at nose. For me, I feel more comfortable as an end because of the position I played before — I had never played zero [technique]-nose before. With end, there is a little more space. You can use your athleticism to your advantage out there. It was just something that was more familiar. I feel it opened up my game a little more and I was able to do things that I like to do."

He's enjoying plenty of family time.

Like many around the world, Harris is spending extra time at home. 

"Really for me, I think this is a great opportunity to get close with your family again," Harris said. "I just found out my oldest daughter, her school just got cancelled for the rest of the year. It's really just being at home and being with the family. We made a little gym in the basement where I can still get the work in and just stay ready. Obviously, I put time [aside] in the day for that. Really the main thing for me is just trying to be the strongest family we can be with this time. We've been blessed to have [this time] together because usually during this time I would be home and the kids would be at school and my wife would be doing something. Now we're kind of just all forced to be together. I'm cooking dinner every night. Really, it's just about the family time because when was the last time you could say you've been stuck at home with your family for like a month or two? I think it's just a good time to sit down and really enjoy each other's company."

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