Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted in 2005.
They come and they go, big names and big personalities, from Brett Favre to Rex Ryan to Tim Tebow to Bart Scott and now Brandon Marshall.
Sometimes they come and go and come back again, in the case of Darrelle Revis.
But through all the Jets tumult of the past decade, there has been one quiet constant who does not say much publicly and whose name rarely comes up on sports talk radio or in social media rants.
David Harris just makes tackles and, in his spare time, is the conduit through which defensive plans and alignments run.
That was what made it such a shock inside the locker room — even if it was a relatively minor blip on the larger football stage — when the linebacker missed Monday night’s game against the Cardinals because of a right hamstring injury.
Only center Nick Mangold, who arrived in 2006, has a longer streak of continuous service with the Jets.
Mangold is a widely recognizable star. Harris, not so much. But no one has been more consistent for the Jets in this century. The man had started 121 regular-season games in a row before Monday night, a streak that dated to a groin injury in late November of 2008.
That ranked seventh among active NFL streaks and second among defensive players to Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr at 133. (Giants quarterback Eli Manning is first overall at 189.)
Harris has led the Jets in tackles in eight of his nine seasons, including seven in a row from 2009-2015, and has 34 ½ sacks in his career. His 1,176 tackles rank third in franchise history behind Kyle Clifton’s 1,471 and Mo Lewis’ 1,231.
At 32, Harris hardly is the player he was at his peak, especially in pass coverage, but he remains effective enough that coach Todd Bowles did not relish the idea of having to replace him.
“You have to roll with the punches,” Bowles said on Friday, referring to the prospect of not having Harris in the lineup.
“Obviously, he’s a great player and he’s played a long time and he understands the game, but we have to have other guys step up. We have some veterans behind him that have played in this league before, so we’ll go with that.”
Revis, who was drafted in the first round the year Harris was taken in the second, said he knows how much the streak meant to his teammate and acknowledged that playing without him would be “a huge hit” for the defensive unit.
Harris himself was reluctant to go into detail about his health on Friday. But he said his first-ever hamstring injury was more difficult to deal with than the shoulder injury that threatened his streak last month. “The hamstring [injury] makes everything hard,” he said.
Harris said he did what he could, spending many hours in the training room trying to do what he always does.
“It means a lot to me,” he said of the streak. “I try to be dependable. I try to be there for my teammates. I don’t like missing time with these guys, so I’ll do everything I can to be out there.”
Harris was on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium testing himself in a last-ditch effort to prove to coaches and himself that he could go. But about 90 minutes before kickoff, he was ruled out.
The fact that it did not work out could be a glitch or evidence of creeping age. Harris is one of an alarming number of core Jets players over 30 — not a good formula for a team that came into Monday night with a 1-4 record.
Harris’ injury presumably will not keep him out for an extended period. The question is what kind of player the Jets will have when he does come back.