Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. aims to put best foot forward against his old team, Denver

Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (25) writhes in pain after injuring his foot against the Carolina Panthers in September.
Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (25) writhes in pain after injuring his foot against the Carolina Panthers in September. He missed the Chargers’ first game against his old team, the Denver Broncos, because of the injury.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He has won a Super Bowl, been an All-Pro and once was nominated for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

Now in his 10th season in the league, Chris Harris Jr. is scheduled to do something Sunday for the first time:

Play against his former team.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” the cornerback said of the emotions he might experience going up against Denver. “I can’t really describe the feeling or what I’m going to feel like. Really just competition, just try to keep it that way.”

Harris is in his first season with the Chargers after spending nine with the Broncos. When these teams met in Denver in Week 8, he was sidelined because of a foot injury.


This time, Harris hopes to be ready. He was limited in practice Wednesday with his foot issue. Harris has been held back in other mid-week practices since returning from the injured reserve list in late November but has managed to play in all four games.

The Chargers, who experienced their first season at an empty SoFi Stadium because of the coronavirus outbreak, hope to play in front of fans next season.

Dec. 22, 2020

He said he still talks regularly with some of his former teammates, including outside linebacker Von Miller, who has missed this season because of an ankle injury.

Harris said he and Miller even talked this week, something players on competing teams often avoid in the days before a game. Speaking of the Broncos in general, Harris said, “A lot of those guys are like my little brothers.”

“It was a brotherhood over there,” he said. “It just happened that I had to go to the dark side.”

Harris signed a two-year contract with the Chargers in March, bringing experience and versatility to a younger secondary. His season was interrupted in Week 3 when he was hurt against Carolina. Harris missed seven games.

“He brings that mentality of what it takes to be successful,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “He’s been a great addition. I appreciate him. … He’s been a blessing for us.”

Harris is coming off a five-tackle effort against Las Vegas, a performance that also included his first interception as a Charger.

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. intercepts a pass intended for Chargers receiver Tyrell Williams.
Chris Harris Jr., shown as a Denver Bronco intercepting a pass against the Chargers, used to be a nemesis for his AFC West rival.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

During his time in Denver, Harris went from making the team as an undrafted free agent to becoming one of the NFL’s finest slot corners. He also emerged as a popular figure in the community. Harris’ videoconference Wednesday with local reporters also attracted several media members who cover the Broncos.

“His knowledge for the game is amazing,” veteran Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen said. “He knows his concepts. He knows his routes. He knows his zones. … He still has that competitive edge.”

In November, Harris lamented missing the first matchup with Denver. “That game hurt,” he said of an afternoon on which the Chargers lost 31-30 in the closing seconds when the defense failed to stop the Broncos.

On Sunday at SoFi Stadium, if his foot continues to cooperate, Harris will have a chance to make up for that lost opportunity. He was asked if he’d have extra incentive going against such a familiar foe.

“I try to approach every game like that,” Harris said. “But I might have a little more this week, for sure.”

Allen hurting

Injuries cost Allen half of the 2015 season and nearly all of 2016. He hasn’t missed a game since, but his status for Sunday remains in doubt. Just two days after being named to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl, Allen missed practice because of a lingering hamstring problem.


“I feel OK,” he said. “We’ll go day by day with it.”

With 100 receptions, Allen needs five more to set a single-season career best. He is eight yards short of his fourth 1,000-yard season in a row. He already has matched his career-high of eight touchdowns.

“I’m living my dream,” Allen said. “I’m doing what I’m doing and it feels good.”

Chargers rookie quarterback Justin Herbert was not sure he would get on the field this season, but circumstance led to a record-breaking season.

Dec. 21, 2020

Last week against the Raiders, Allen ran his all-time career receptions total to 624. He has the most catches for an NFL player through 100 career games.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Wow, I just never knew nobody did that …’ ” Allen said. “I was just playing ball and it just kind of happened.”

White on IR

The Chargers placed linebacker Kyzir White on injured reserve, ending his season. White was the team’s leading tackler through nine games before going on the COVID-19 reserve list in November. He came back and appeared in two games before suffering a shoulder injury against Las Vegas. White finished with 77 tackles, including four for lost yardage.

The Chargers also could be without tight end Hunter Henry on Sunday. He has not practiced this week because of an undisclosed illness. Henry had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders.

Pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu hasn’t practiced this week because of a knee injury and is unlikely to play Sunday. Defensive end Joey Bosa remains in concussion protocol but did rejoin his teammates on the field Wednesday.

Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (concussion), safety Nasir Adderley (shoulder) and linebacker Denzel Perryman (back) all practiced in full.