Repaired Titan Harper can see clearly now
Posted: Thursday, June 25, 2009 3:19 pm
By: By TERESA M. WALKER, AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Nick Harper noticed the difference immediately.
The Tennessee cornerback had tired of dealing with contacts to correct his farsightedness and decided to have eye surgery to correct a vision problem he estimates may have cost him 20 or so interceptions over his eight-year NFL career.
“They sat me up, I could see instantly. Instantly,” Harper said Wednesday. “There was a clock in front of me. That’s how I know. When I laid down, that clock was blurry. When I sat up, I could see it.”
Harper said he took another eye test when he got home. He said he use to strain to watch TV in bed. After the surgery, he said “it felt like I had HD.”
How much Harper’s improved vision helps him on the field remains to be seen, and he won’t estimate how many interceptions that might translate into. He did pick off a pass from Patrick Ramsey during a passing drill Wednesday.
“I’ve got to get those balls thrown my way again. Right now everything is working. We’ll see in game time,” Harper said.
Eye surgery helped receiver Dwayne Bowe fix his drop problems, and he rebounded by setting a single-season record with 12 touchdowns at LSU in 2006.
Harper, who turns 35 when the Titans open the 2009 season at Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, finished second in passes defended last season with 17. He also led or tied for the team lead in tackles four times. He picked off two passes, giving him 20 for his career, despite how balls turned blurry just as they got close to his hands.
In the Titans’ secondary, that was the lowest total for any of the four defensive backs. Safety Michael Griffin picked off seven passes, All Pro cornerback Cortland Finnegan had five and Pro Bowl safety Chris Hope had four.
Harper said he first mentioned his vision to trainers in Indianapolis where he started his NFL career in 2001 and felt he was brushed off. He finally couldn’t take anymore and went to an eye doctor where he was prescribed contact lenses.
“It was like being in another world in games,” he said.
Contacts aren’t for everyone. Harper would sleep in his and found the lenses dried up, making them uncomfortable and tougher to see. He also hated taking them out and putting them back in. The boxes of lenses started piling up at home with Harper buying them, but not using them.
“A lot of maintenance, and I’m low maintenance so the contacts and I weren’t working,” he said.
So he didn’t wear them during 2008, not even once during a game.
“Hopefully, this will make things better,” said Harper, who is in the last year of his current contract.
Titans coach Jeff Fisher, himself a former defensive back, said cornerbacks all have balls they feel they should have caught. He also said no player puts himself on the field without taking advantage of everything possible to be productive.
“If he chose not to wear the contacts, he felt he was better without them than he was with them. When you’ve got a guy who can benefit from Lasik surgery and correct the vision, you might as well take advantage of it,” Fisher said.