Carolina Panthers Safety Roman Harper
Conference Call with Local Media
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
How strange is it to be playing your old team?
"I tell everybody that it really hasn't been too difficult. I knew this was part of the business. It basically kind of happens to everybody and it is not a big deal. It is here in Carolina. I am used to a home crowd and it will be all good. It will just be against guys that I know very well. I think it won't feel different until I actually come to the guy sand (will) be on the other side of the sidelines and seeing some of the crew guys that work the Dome (Mercedes-Benz Superdome) and guys that I know over the years and actually got to know and talk to before the game. I think that's when it will be really weird, not this weekend, not Thursday. This one will just be another one."
What was the whole process like for you leaving the Saints? Did you get the sense early that you could be playing for another team?
"Yes of course, it is part of it. They drafted Kenny (Vacarro) in the first round (of the 2013 NFL Draft) and they want to see him play. I think at the end of the day that's kind of what it was. I never really felt like he beat me out or anything like that. It is the business. They want to see these guys play. They want to see their guys have success. There are no hard feelings, it is just part of it. I was ready to move on and they were too. It was just part of it."
What have you seen from Mark Ingram lately?
"The biggest thing is that he is healthy. You can tell he is healthy. He looks a little bit smaller like he has lost a little weight and he is running fast. He is running explosive. He is running behind his pads and doing all the things that he was known for when he won the Heisman. He's had a lot of success and at the end of the day he is running for a check. It is about that time. I am so excited for him just knowing that he is like my little brother. I am looking forward to facing him. I've never actually hit him but probably one time and that was on the goal line his rookie year. I am looking forward to it. I am looking forward to the matchup and actually getting out there and flying around against my old team."
Was it satisfying for you to have three interceptions to start the season and the Saints were struggling to get turnovers?
"No, I really can't control what they are doing at that side. All I can control is here. The ball has bounced my way a couple of times and able to make some plays on the ball. I am just trying to help my team win here. I really cannot worry about how they do not have (a lot of) turnovers or anything going on in New Orleans. I have enough on my plate here in Charlotte. At the end of the day I am just trying to help my team win and whether that is creating turnovers or getting more tackles I have to be able to do this and help this defense play better."
Was it strange to see you and Malcolm Jenkins among league leaders in turnovers but both for different teams?
"I always knew Malcolm was a great player and it is no shock to me the great things that he's doing out there (in Philadelphia). He is playing on a Pro Bowl caliber level right now. I am just happy to see him being successful. He already has one to the crib, but Malcolm scored a touchdown every year though so it is not like anything is out of the ordinary. He has always been a big play safety and he is playing extremely well. I am just really happy. I talk to him all the time and we still keep in touch. He is really happy where he is at. He is closer back to New Jersey where he is from and he is getting back acclimated (to the northeast). He said he is honking his horn all the time on the interstate, being an aggressive driver and doing all the things that the people up north do."
What was it like for you to transition to a new team?
"At first it was a little difficult. Just the fact that, it was not difficult at the fact of accepting it because in my mind I had already accepted it way before it ever happened. Once you do that the pain's gone and you understand it is what it is. Once I got here and understood what team I was going to be on it was a little different. Seeing a different color on the jersey, different locker room, different setup, different schedule, different coaches, (and) different players and just trying to get adjusted and acclimated to these guys. I felt like I knew them and they felt like they knew me but deep down underneath the helmet we really did not know each other. They accepted me with open arms and really have been great. This coaching staff is a great group of guys that care about not only you as a player but who you are as a man and try to encourage guys to be good guys on and off the field. It has been very, very refreshing. It kind of just upstarted my whole career again in a sense."
Was it kind of like being a rookie all over again?
"Yes it really was. I am the one going around finding out guys' names and information, not the rookies coming up to me. It was definitely a different process but I was excited to do it. The fact that I have never been in this situation before, I have always had the same locker, (and been in) the same locker room for eight, nine years and now I'm somewhere else, it has been fun. The guys, the training staff, everyone is really cool. It has been a great experience and this organization is really all about the players and I appreciate that."
Was there any point where they kind of initiated you or felt embraced by the team?
"No, but during training camp I did get my first vet day off. I did not get that for eight years in New Orleans. They told me to put on a hat and just go out there. I could not practice and I was n0t hurt. That was the most appreciative thing I've gotten since I've been here is a freaking vet day off."
Why do you think that sometimes players can play better after being on a different team? Are you trying to prove something to your old team?
"It has nothing to do with that, not to me personally. My biggest thing is it's just a different thing. It's a different vibe, a different system. You're learning all over again. You're really focusing on the little things and the little details where before you felt like you knew it all because you've been in the same system for so long. Not only that, even the players and coaches it's all fresh. You are a new face. You are no longer stale to them. You're not like the old girlfriend. You're like the good looking girl you see walking across the street. That's what it is about right now and I am excited to be here. It has been great. It has been very good."
Do you think players can stay on one team too long?
"It happens. You look at Terence Newman out in Cincinnati. He was out in Dallas for forever and all of a sudden everyone kept saying he was at the end of his career and then he goes to Cincinnati and plays extremely well for two, three, four years now. It can happen. It happens to everybody. It's just part of being in the NFL, this business. Fans and everybody get their emotions attached and it's hard not to do when you cheer for somebody and put your all into it like our fans do on Sundays. We do the same. We get emotionally attached to cities and places but at the end of the day business people have to make business decisions."
What are your thoughts on the LSU-Alabama game next week?
"Yeah, Of course, now we are really talking some real football now. First of all, it will not be big. It will be okay. It will be you guys' (LSU fans) big game. You guys are just in line, just in the way of what we are trying to get accomplished which is SEC Championship, Playoffs in the two, three seed and we will be right where we want to be when everybody counted us out after the Ole Miss loss even though we outplayed them all game. We just lost it in the fourth quarter. We were up 10 points, had a bad turnover, we blew a couple coverages, that's all. It's alright. We are just young in the secondary. We are improving. It's just understanding that we are not rebuilding, just reloading."
It sounds like you are just as much part of the team than you ever were.
"Some things never change, Roll Tide."