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Raiders ‘Special teams demon’ Dwayne Harris talks about his 99-yard touchdown punt return like it’s no big deal

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NFL: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Monday Night in Oakland got a moment of pure excitement thanks to Dwayne Harris picking up a ball the Broncos saved from bouncing into the end zone and returning it 99 yards for a touchdown. As you might expect, Jon Gruden was pretty excited about the play. Probably even more excited considering his offense had done nothing up to that point and yet they held a 7-0 lead.

“He made a play earlier in the season, I don’t know if you remember, where he force an out of bounds kickoff. One of the most heads up plays I’d ever seen. And tonight, that’s the impact play that really turned this whole game around. But he covered kicks, I think he did a great job of prohibiting them from downing the kick inside our five, he’s a special teams demon and I’m glad we got him.”

I certainly remember that play Harris made. It was against the Chiefs and even while the announcers on television were suggesting it was a lucky break (I didn’t hear them saying this watching it live at the game) it was clear at least to me that Harris knew exactly what he was doing. But just to make sure, I asked him about it.

At that time, I was the only one who asked Harris about it. And he shrugged as if to say ‘no shit, of course I did.’ I knew it was a dumb question, but because of some folks’ assumption on it being a lucky play because of the announcers misunderstanding, it was a question that needed asked.

The play he made Monday night garnered a lot more media than that one and his demeanor was just the same. As if what he did was no big deal. Routine. That’s just what he does.

“As soon as he touched it, I knew I was going to try to return it if he had tried to kick it back or throw it back,” Harris said of the play. “I’ve been trying to get that play all season. If anybody’s ever seen me try to return inside the ten, I’m always trying to get that play and as soon as he did it I knew it was an opportunity for me to take advantage of it.”

You gotta love that kind of cool under pressure and smarts to always know the rules and what play to make. Special teams gets overlooked as just speedy, shifty return men and guys who aren’t good enough to play on offense and defense. Harris stands out as much more than that.