Scene from the third play of Tim Harris's first NFL start, in Cleveland on Oct. 19, 1986: Harris, an outside linebacker for the Green Bay Packers, has just steamrolled over the Browns' Pro Bowl tight end, Ozzie Newsome, and after the play, as he stands over Newsome, Harris screams, "Gonna be a looong day, Ozzie! I can't believe it! Veteran like you getting beat by a rookie! A rookie, Ozzie! Woooohoooo!"
Scene from the fourth quarter of a game against Minnesota, in Green Bay, Dec. 11, 1988: During a television timeout, with the woebegone Packers leading the powerful Vikings on the way to an 18-6 Green Bay victory, Harris shouts across the field at the Vikes, "Woooohoooo! Can't beat us, can you, great Vikings!" Minnesota center Kirk Lowdermilk turns to him and says, "Hey Harris, you're a great player, but you know what? You'll never make the Pro Bowl because you're such an idiot."
Scene from pregame warmups in Milwaukee, Oct. 1, 1989: Harris walks up to Atlanta Falcon center Jamie Dukes, whom he played against in college, and says, "I'm going to be your worst nightmare today." Harris smiles when he says this, but he is serious. By the end of the first half, Harris has three sacks, one coming directly over Dukes. He ends up with four sacks—and is named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week—as the surprising Packers notch their second of three victories in the first five weeks. Woooohoooo!
If something other than the ignorance of his fellow NFL players kept Harris from being voted to the Pro Bowl last season, it must have been his age, which was 24, or his mouth, which is big. It certainly wasn't his performance—last year he ranked fifth in the league in sacks, with 13�—or his body, which is a chiseled 6'5�" and 250 pounds. Harris is taller and heavier than today's typical outside linebacker, and he has better balance than anyone west of the New York Giants' Lawrence Taylor. He looks more like an NBA power forward, but with slightly thinner legs. Those legs enable him, as he says, to run all day.
But the first thing you notice about Harris is his mouth. "He must lead the league in talking," says his teammate and close friend, safety Kenny Stills. Harris might even lead the league in talking about talking.
"I do it," he says at his home in Green Bay, which he shares with his wife, Barbara, and 14-month-old daughter, Marissa, "because I've been doing it all my life and because I think it gets people off their game. I can see it in guys. I work on them all game, talking to them, telling them how they can't stop me, how they've never seen anybody like me before—anything, just to be talking—and I can see it working. Guys get distracted. They don't think about their assignments, maybe. They're thinking about how they're going to get me."
"He's a force out there, physically and verbally," says Packer coach Lindy Infante.
"He talks so much," says Lowdermilk "that he's the perfect example of the guy you love to hate."
He would be, if anyone knew who he was. Oh, they know him in the NFC Central. Over the last 21 games, since the start of the 1988 season, Harris has accumulated 21 sacks, surpassing the division's two best-known sackers, defensive ends Richard Dent of the Chicago Bears and Chris Doleman of the Vikings, who have 14 and 13, respectively. In Green Bay's two upsets of Minnesota last year, Harris forced two safeties and, after blocking a punt, recovered the ball and ran it into the end zone for a touchdown. He had two sacks in a December loss to the Detroit Lions. After both of them he pulled out an imaginary six-shooter and pointed it at quarterback Rusty Hilger as if to shoot him. Later, Lion defensive end Eric Williams said that he would take Harris's "knee out to lunch" if he ever faced him in a game. Harris has jawed sporadically with Chicago coach Mike Ditka and entire sections of fans at Soldier Field during Bears-Packers games.
Tampa Bay coach Ray Perkins likens Harris to his two alltime favorite linebackers, Taylor and Cornelius Bennett of the Buffalo Bills. "I don't think he's a good football player," says Perkins of Harris. "I don't think he's very good. I think he's one of the great players in football today."