When Roman Harper signed with the Saints this off-season, the Saints organization praised his leadership and defensive acumen. However, another benefit is his intimate knowledge of division rival the Carolina Panthers.
At the age of 33, strong safety Roman Harper has seen just about everything when it comes to football.
The former University of Alabama standout was drafted in the second round by the Saints in 2006. During his first stint in New Orleans, he was an integral part of the defense that won a Super Bowl, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2009.
Harper’s career in New Orleans appeared to come to an abrupt end in 2014, when he was released by the Saints, only to be picked up by divisional rivals, the Carolina Panthers.
Dec 28, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Carolina Panthers strong safety Roman Harper (41) celebrates a victory against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. The Panthers defeated the Falcons 34-3. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
You can be sure Carolina head coach Ron Rivera and the Panthers coaching staff grilled Harper for whatever nuggets of information he had regarding the Saints.
Regardless of whether Harper gave them anything, the Panthers enjoyed a lot of success with Harper in the fold.
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During his time with the Panthers, the team won the NFC South division title in back-to-back seasons, and in 2015 made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
But time has a funny way of working things out, and this off-season, Roman Harper signed once more with the place it all began: in New Orleans with the Saints.
While he hasn’t mentioned anything about it publicly, Saints fans better believe that Sean Payton relished the opportunity to once again pump Roman Harper for information — and in turn returning the favor to Ron Rivera.
Rivera has already acknowledge this publicly, admitting to a Charlotte newspaper that the Panthers have changed their calls defensively, specifically with Roman Harper in mind.
“He’s a smart guy, so we’ve had to do it on offense and defense. We’ve had to keep that in mind and we had to change a lot of things we had used in the past,” said Rivera.
Feb 25, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
The Panthers have now won the NFC South an impressive three years in a row.
There is no denying that they are the team to beat, and the stellar play of MVP quarterback Cam Newton is a big reason why.
For all the preparation, practice, and film study, the Saints actually only see Cam Newton in person two days a year, when the Saints play the Panthers.
For the past two seasons, Roman Harper has been around Cam Newton constantly, a leader in the Panthers locker room.
Even if they never said a word to each other off the field, Harper is a smart football player, and has spent every practice, every training camp day fighting against the Panthers offense, learning their tendencies and habits.
Jun 16, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive back Roman Harper (41) during the final day of minicamp at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
This inside information alone, would be worth every penny of Harper’s contract.
But coupled with his veteran leadership and his ability to be a factor on the football field, Roman Harper — even in what is surely the ‘twilight”of his NFL career — is looking like a smart addition for the Saints……