Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris finished a disappointing 2009 season with 2.5 seasons. But Bears coach Lovie Smith bolstered his faith in the three-time Pro Bowl selection and noted his sack total should have been higher.
"I'll say (he should have had) five more sacks where he just didn't wrap the guy up," Smith said at the NFL combine. "He can still be an impact player. He will still be an impact player. Our defense is counting on him to do that.
"When you go through some injuries sometimes you say, 'Well, maybe a guy can't do it anymore.' He can still do it. And he needs to do it this year."
Harris has 7.5 sacks in the last two seasons, after having a career-high 8.0 in 2008. He is due a $2.5 million roster bonus in June.
Smith reinforced the importance of the position to his cover-two based defense ("It's the shortest distance to the quarterback," Smith said), but he also made a strong point.
"We need Tommie to play the way he's capable of playing --- every snap," Smith said.
Harris had his "ups and downs," Smith said, but he also had a lot of "flash plays."
During an earlier interview, as he was speaking generally about some of the combine's elite defensive tackles, Smith highlighted the importance of the position in his scheme.
"Having a dominant player right there, especially for our defense, it makes our defense tick," Smith said. "It's the reason we pay our defensive tackle more money than we have any other players on our team.
"So, it's very important to have a disruptive guy there that can cause havoc and make teams double-team him."
Harris signed a four-year extension in 2008 worth $40 million, including $17 million in guarantees. The deal made him the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL, at the time. It has since been surpassed, most recently by Albert Haynesworth, who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract last year that included $41 million in guarantees.