But that doesn’t mean they totally forgot about him.
The former Campbell High School star received a call from the Cincinnati Bengals on July 24, which began a whirlwind of events. On the subsequent days, Lewis-Harris was invited to work out with the Bengals, was signed to a free-agent contract and practiced with the team on the first day of training camp.
With all the injuries taking place in Cincinnati’s defensive secondary as of late, the 5-foot-10, 180-pound Lewis-Harris has a shot at not only making the final roster, but also getting playing time, even if it’s on special teams.
“I’m getting reps and getting an opportunity,” said Lewis-Harris, who was an all-Southern Conference cornerback in his final season at Chattanooga. “I have to make the most of my opportunity and show them what I can do. I’m taking advantage of the reps I’m getting so I can get a chance to play.”
Veteran Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is still trying to reach full strength after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last season. Dre Kirkpatrick, the team’s first-round draft pick from Alabama, could be out up to five weeks with a knee injury. Another veteran, Nate Clements, is still on the physically unable to play list with an abdominal strain.
But even with all the injuries the Bengals have sustained, and the opportunities they’ve presented, the 23-year-old Lewis-Harris is still facing a challenging battle.
Cincinnati added proven cornerbacks Terrance Jones and Jason Allen via free agency. The Bengals also re-signed Adam “Pacman” Jones for added depth, though he’s dealing with a calf injury.
When asked about the flurry of injuries, Lewis-Harris doesn’t seem to be walking on eggshells — “That hasn’t even crossed my mind.” — but he is self aware and said he was taking extra measures to take care of his body both on and off the field.
Knowing he doesn’t have much to lose — and everything to gain — Lewis-Harris has focused on playing football through the first couple of days of workouts, and he was confident with his performance.
Lewis-Harris said the toughest part of camp has been learning the defensive playbook, and he added that he’s been catching himself thinking too much. He’s also learning through constructive criticism from the veterans, and having to cover the Bengals’ talented receivers is another way of sharpening his skills.
“I’ve covered A.J. Green a couple of times,” Lewis-Harris said of the former Georgia star. “Even if it’s one or two people covering him, he can still time it just right. You can tell he’s been doing this a while. I’ve been right there on the ball. I just have to get the timing just right and technique.”
Lewis-Harris’ man coverage and quick feet is expected to work in his favor. Those were his strengths during his college career at Chattanooga, where he started 38 of 44 games, finished with five interceptions and was also fourth on the team with 59 tackles as a senior.
“He is a great kid to coach — model behavior,” said agent Richard Larde, who was Lewis-Harris’ middle school coach. “He listens and has great character. He’s smart, too, which is very important, and you can count on him every time. I wish all players were like Chris.”
Named Cobb County Defensive Back of the Year in 2006, Lewis-Harris led Campbell to a 9-3 record that year before the Spartans fell to eventual co-state champion Peachtree Ridge in the second round of the Class AAAAA playoffs.