Until he was arrested for driving under the influence early last Friday morning, linebacker Tim Harris was adjusting well to his move from Green Bay to San Francisco. He had been a holdout this season with the Packers, but on Sept. 30 the 49ers traded two draft choices for him so that they could pair him as a pass-rushing bookend with linebacker Charles Haley. "Well, well, well!" Haley crowed when he saw Harris in the Niner locker room for the first time. "Look who's here! Mr. Big Head!"
A player walks a fine line when he joins a new team. Harris, one of the league's premier sack men as well as one of its most obnoxious guys on and off the field, toned down his act right away in San Francisco. He told the offensive linemen that he had left his trademark "pistols" in Green Bay—as a Packer, he had pointed his index fingers at sack victims and "shot" them—and that he wouldn't be so demonstrative as a 49er. He wanted to fit in. "No way!" one of the linemen said. "You used to do that to us. You better not quit now."
Harris had much to learn about the San Francisco system, and he says he watched more film in two weeks than he had in a season with Green Bay. When Haley saw Niner coaches running Harris through the same plays over and over in practice last week, he hollered, "They treat you like a laboratory animal!" Further, Harris had to get used to the idea of playing primarily as a nickel pass rusher, instead of on every down.
Finally, he had worn number 97 in his nine college and pro seasons, but San Francisco rookie Ted Washington wears that number, and Harris was issued 92. "I'll give you $1,500 for your number," Harris said to Washington.
"Make it $4,000," Washington said.
Harris stayed with 92. "I'm the new guy," he said. "What can I do?"
Still, just getting out of Green Bay seemed to make it all worthwhile for Harris—who had three tackles in his Niner debut, a 39-34 loss to the Falcons on Sunday. He was singing, "Nothing could be finer than to be a 49er," when he walked out of the locker room one day last week. But Harris and the 49ers could be singing the blues if he is charged and found guilty of DUI. The NFL would then review the incident and give him a hearing, with the possibility of a suspension hanging in the balance.