“Hey—are you ready to play some football?”
This was the phone call quarterback Chandler Harnish received from his agent Sunday night. By Monday morning, he was in Minnesota to join the Vikings practice squad.
Harnish does have one Minnesota connection–he played under current Gophers coach Jerry Kill at Northern Illinois–but he has spent his NFL career in Indianapolis. The Colts drafted Harnish with the last overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. While he played the first five game of his career on the active roster, he spent a majority of his time on the practice squad. On Aug. 30 of this year, Indy released Harnish.
The 26-year-old is not the type to get discouraged, however. Rather, being perceived as the underdog motivates Harnish to work even harder, and he is grateful for each and every opportunity he gets.
“Some people make light of the practice squad, but ultimately I’m just very proud to be part of a team,” Harnish expressed. “There are not many guys out there who can say that. [The NFL] is hard. You can’t take this for granted. Whether you’re part of the active roster or the practice squad, it’s something you can hang your hat on.”
Harnish gained invaluable experience while in Indianapolis, specifically mentioning a strong coaching staff and working under the mentorship of veterans such as Matt Hasselbeck and Reggie Wayne. Harnish also spent the last few seasons with starting QB Andrew Luck. These specific scenarios and teammates taught Harnish not only on-field strategies for the game of football, but also how to approach preparing for a game and keeping himself healthy and ready to go—both mentally and physically.
Harnish gladly accepted this transition. Despite joining the Vikings only two days ago, he feels confident in his ability to strengthen their roster in whatever way needed.
“The nice thing about football is that a lot of it overlaps,” he said. “A lot of offenses overlap; there are very similar types of plays—you just have different words for them. Everyone has different systems, but I think I have experience with a lot of the types of throws we’re trying to make in Minnesota. I’m just excited to take on this opportunity.”
The Vikings may not have planned to need an additional passing arm, but they are happy to sign Harnish. With original starter Matt Cassel out for the season and rookie Teddy Bridgewater recovering from an ankle sprain, the QB situation for Thursday’s matchup against Green Bay remains questionable. If Bridgewater is unable to play, third-string Christian Ponder will be called upon. Harnish and McLeod Bethel-Thompson are on the practice squad.
Bridgewater started his first game as a rookie last week, when he led his team to a 41-28 victory over Atlanta. Harnish already has nothing but positive things to say about his new teammate:
“Teddy is just a really cool kid. He’s young [...] he has already proven that he can play at this level. He came out and had a phenomenal game [against Atlanta]. He has a ton of upside; everyone is excited about him [...] He takes notes, he learns, and he knows what’s going on. He has an incredibly bright future.”
In addition to Bridgewater, Harnish expressed enthusiasm for working with the entire Vikings coaching system and roster. “I can already tell it’s a tight-knit group of guys,” he said. “I’m just excited to move forward and get to know these guys better, to continue to work with them.
Regardless of in a game or in practice, the QB is ready to fill his role in the purple and gold.