Chris Harris Jr. happy to be in Chargers' corner; OL Bryan Bulaga, LB Nick Vigil too

Jeff Miller
LA Times
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. takes part in a SiriusXM event at Super Bowl LIV on Jan. 30 in Miami. <span class="copyright">(Cindy Ord / Getty Images for SiriusXM)</span>
Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. takes part in a SiriusXM event at Super Bowl LIV on Jan. 30 in Miami. (Cindy Ord / Getty Images for SiriusXM)

Chris Harris Jr. praised Keenan Allen for his competitiveness Tuesday in his first public comments about the two becoming teammates on the Chargers.

Allen’s competitiveness was on display quite famously in October when, on social media, he announced that Harris “can’t hold my jockstrap.”

The celebrated cornerback-receiver rivalry was officially placed in the past this week when Harris signed his new free-agent deal.

“I know the type of competitor he is, and just to have that mutual respect out there, I know he’s going to give it his all every game,” Harris said, before adding that he’d offer the receiver “any knowledge that I have to go out there and win.”

One of the team’s top offseason additions, Harris talked with reporters on a conference call that included two fellow free-agent newcomers, right tackle Bryan Bulaga and linebacker Nick Vigil.

After nine seasons with Denver, Harris signed a two-year contract to switch AFC West allegiances.

He said he was drawn to the Chargers because of their willingness to play him at slot corner and his familiarity with Ron Milus. Now the Chargers’ defensive backs coach, Milus was with the Broncos early in Harris’ career.

“The coaching, the fit, being able to do what I want to do,” Harris listed as factors in the Chargers’ favor. “A lot of the other teams, they probably had around the same amount of money offered, but it wasn’t going to allow me to do what I love to do.”

The arrival of Harris likely means Desmond King will be shifted into more of a safety role. The Chargers need to fill in the spot vacated by Adrian Phillips, who left in free agency to join New England.

Harris long has been recognized as one of the NFL’s top slot corners, a position that often matched him against Allen, the Chargers’ three-time Pro Bowl receiver.

Those showdowns will happen now only in practice, which won’t come at any point soon. As with all NFL teams, the Chargers’ offseason program has been suspended indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this void, Harris explained he has kept busy by entertaining his children all day. Bulaga said the same, adding he has attempted to assist his wife with homeschooling.

“I can definitely tell you I’m not … a teacher,” he said. “That’s probably not going to be my strong suit. … I think I’m good at the P.E. side. I think I’m doing a good job [with] recess, going outside and playing with the kids.”

As with Harris, Bulaga has a coaching connection with the Chargers. James Campen, who was hired this offseason by Anthony Lynn to work with the offensive line, coached Bulaga for nine years in Green Bay.

Bulaga said Campen’s presence appealed to him, as did the Packers’ experience when they visited Dignity Health Sports Park in November to face the Chargers.

In probably their best overall performance of a 5-11 season, the Chargers won 26-11, limiting Green Bay to one fourth-quarter touchdown and 184 yards.

“They beat up on us pretty good,” Bulaga recalled. “I knew the type of roster that was in place. To me, it was one of those teams I was really hoping things would come together and we’d be able to work out a deal. And thankfully we were.”

Bulaga is part of an offensive line rebuild that so far also has included the addition of right guard Trai Turner and the loss of left tackle Russell Okung.

The changes will emphasize the need for the Chargers’ offensive front to jell, something that can happen only with repetitions that start in the offseason program and continue through training camp.

With the schedule in limbo, the Chargers could be at a disadvantage, given the unfamiliarity that exists among the offensive linemen.

“If it doesn’t happen [soon] and we do have to jump into training camp right away and get this thing going, yeah, it’s going to be challenging,” Bulaga said. “There’s going to be a learning curve. Guys are going to have to adjust very quickly.”

Vigil joins the Chargers after four seasons in Cincinnati, during which the Bengals went 21-42-1.

He said he has been asked to learn the middle and weak-side linebacker spots in Gus Bradley’s defense. He played all three linebacker positions in Cincinnati and has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes.

Asked about his strengths, Vigil highlighted his ability in pass coverage and his instincts.

“I’m pretty comfortable moving around and playing different spots and doing different things,” he said.

Vigil started 37 of the 38 games in which he played the past three seasons, including all 16 last year. He finished 2019 with 111 tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception.

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