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Never losing desire

Former Charger Harrison has irrepressible attitude

FOXBOROUGH -- If you think losing one game after winning 21 in a row is going to rattle Rodney Harrison, you probably need him to smack some sense into you.

Except for Corey Dillon, a longtime Bengal, Harrison probably knows about losing better than anyone else on the Patriots roster. Try 59-84 in nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers, including 1-15 in 2000. Now that's losing.

Harrison knows about losing because he's seen it, lived with it, tried fighting through it. You think a 34-20 loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh that dropped the Patriots to 6-1 is going to shake Harrison's resolve?

"I understand when you lose here it's more of a bigger deal in terms of the media because there's more media out here and there's more attention paid to us because of the Super Bowl championships and things like that," said Harrison. "Me, I'm always going to play the same way. I don't care if we're up by 40, or if we've lost 11 games in a row, a 1-15 season or won 21 in a row, I play the same way, every play, every down, every game.

"It's just something I have inside of me. Never give up. I don't care what the score is. I've been on both sides of the road. There's no change in my mentality. There's one way to play and that's hard all the time."

When Harrison was in San Diego, the losses piled up at amazing rates.

The Chargers lost eight straight to end the 1997 campaign, five straight to conclude '98. There were six straight losses in the middle of the 1999 season. After 11 straight to start the 2000 season, they finished with four straight. In '01, the Chargers were 5-2 before losing their final nine games. And in '02, Harrison ended his Chargers career with four straight losses.

"It was very disheartening then," Harrison said. "I worked harder and harder. And I tried to be more positive. I tried to do as best as I could do. What more could I do? You go out there and play hurt and run through brick walls. You just can't do it by yourself."

The only success Harrison enjoyed in San Diego was as a rookie in 1994, when the Chargers went to the Super Bowl, only to get blown out by the 49ers, 49-26.

It is no wonder why this guy has so much pent-up frustration. He had a career-high 18 tackles on defense, plus three more on special teams, against the Steelers. Pity the poor St. Louis Rams receivers, who may feel the frustration of a Patriots loss when the teams meet Sunday.

"Even in San Diego when I was leading the team in tackles, I didn't have that many tackles," said Harrison. "That was a lot. But [the Steelers] had 200-and-something yards rushing and had the ball for 42 1/2 minutes, and that's disappointing that we can't stop someone and get them off the field."

He will be the voice of reason this week in the locker room, not getting into teammates' faces, but just acting like the veteran with perspective. He knows he's one of many seasoned players on this team.

"Let's face it," he said, "we have a lot more talent here. The coaching is superior. It's just not on me. If I see some guys on the practice squad in need of reinforcement, I'll tell them to pick it up because we need you. They just need to follow."

He will give a nudge to Dexter Reid, the rookie safety who may have to play more with Ty Law out and free safety Eugene Wilson likely having to see more time as a cornerback.

"I'm not the coach," said Harrison. "I play strong safety. Whoever is next to me, whoever is at the corners, that's who I play with. It's my job as the elder statesman and veteran to get these guys going, to work hard and try to make them play at their highest level.

"It doesn't matter to me who's back there. Whoever it is has to step up. We always preach that you're only one play away from being a starter full-time. If something happened to me, [Reid] would have to go in there."

He does not expect Bill Belichick and the coaching staff to overreact. This isn't Bobby Ross or Kevin Gilbride or June Jones or Mike Riley or even Marty Schottenheimer, his past coaches in San Diego.

"You can't do that with your players," said Harrison. "Of course they're disappointed. I'm disappointed. They're disappointed we lost. What can you do? You've got to keep playing. It's one loss, and probably not the only game we're going to lose. You just have to keep playing football."

He's already seen the difference in reaction to losing between San Diego and New England. In San Diego, it was a way of life, just another Sunday. But here, he said, "The people in the building where I live, they're overreacting. They see my wife walking down the hall. They say, `I'm sorry, it's a terrible day.' It's really a beautiful day, 60 degrees and sunny.

"We have to keep things in perspective. It's just one football game. We still have nine games left."

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