Combination of factors is keeping Patriots LB David Harris on sideline

Every Saturday, some of the hot topics surrounding the New England Patriots will be explored.

Alex, this is a combination of David Harris' place on the depth chart (he's behind Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts) and the defenses that the Patriots have run in the first two games. Against the Chiefs in the opener, the Patriots spent most of the game in a dime defense (just one linebacker on the field), and then the next week against the Saints, it was mostly a nickel game (two linebackers on the field). If Van Noy or Roberts had sustained an injury against the Saints, Harris would have been the next man up (he's played just three snaps in the first two games). It's not an apples-to-apples comparison, but Harris' fit in the defense reminds me a little bit of when Brandon Spikes was here. He's a run-first player and speed isn't his forte. Also, I think Roberts deserves some credit. He played well last week.

John, I tried to watch Dont'a Hightower a little bit in the limited time reporters were at practice this week, and it seemed to be a very cautious approach. He also wasn't around in the locker room all week when reporters were present, which could be an indication he still has some ground to make up before he returns.

Bert, here is the latest from the NFL: "There was an inspection of the stadium [Thursday]. Preliminary reports were positive. There have been no decisions or any change in our plans, but we are having on-going conversations with federal and local authorities. We are mindful of this terrible situation and will discuss further with those officials how we can help as they transition from the rescue to reconstruction phase. We also want to understand if the game would create any ancillary issues there in November. There is no timeline but we will provide updates following our continued discussions."

Michael, the Patriots had Lamarr Houston in for a look late in the week, according to ESPN's Field Yates. My sense is that it was more of a due diligence type deal than anything else at this point. As we've seen since early September, the Patriots are bringing in 10-20 players per week to keep their emergency lists updated.

Chris, Matthew Slater looks like he's heading in the right direction, but he's yet to fully participate in a practice. That is an indication to me that he's not yet ready to return to game action, in addition to the fact he hasn't been seen around the locker room during media-access periods.

Steve, the players don't have to be designated at the time they are placed on injured reserve. So linebacker Shea McClellin, receiver Malcolm Mitchell and defensive tackle Vincent Valentine all are eligible to return later this season, although that's three players for just two spots. Without knowing more details on their injuries and projected recovery time, it's tough to project which players are most likely to be back.