FOXBOROUGH -- On a day when most players were tying up loose ends -- mainly Super Bowl tickets and hotel arrangements for family and friends -- before tomorrow's departure to Jacksonville, Fla., for Super Bowl XXXIX, the Patriots had a motivational gift dropped in their laps.
Thank you, Freddie Mitchell.
At the end of an ESPN interview yesterday, in which the Eagles wide receiver had trouble naming some of the players in the Patriots' secondary, Mitchell said, "I got something for you Harrison when I meet you, too."
Rodney Harrison's response was to tackle the issue head-on. "It's pretty funny from a guy that doesn't even start unless someone goes down," said Harrison. "Was he a former first-round pick? And still hasn't broken into the starting lineup. Means a lot coming from him."
Asked if he had a history with Mitchell, Harrison said, "Not at all."
When Harrison was told Mitchell couldn't name the Patriots' cornerbacks, he shrugged and said, "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. That's not how the game's determined, win or lose. It doesn't matter. Right now, this is his 30 seconds of fame. I think what Freddie needs to do is concentrate on getting better and not worry about what I'm doing over here. I'm in the league a long time and I'm gonna show up on Sunday." Asked if he would be waiting to lay a hit on Mitchell, Harrison said, "I'm just playing football. I'm not changing any of my ways or what I've been doing, what I've trained myself to do over the course of 26 years of playing football. I'm excited about the opportunity."
Harrison isn't surprised when players talk trash before a game.
"Some people are just immature," he said. "Some people haven't really experienced certain things. Like I said, this is his 30 seconds of fame. When you look on ESPN you see him doing all the sideshows and all the antics and stuff like that. But when you go out there and you play well, your actions speaks for itself, you don't have to do the sideshows. People respect you. When you have a lot to say and criticize people, it really [puts] a negative light on you."
Harrison was asked by a female reporter from ESPN if he could name the Eagles' corners and said, "Of course I can, sweetheart. Next question."
And when asked whether Mitchell could play for the Patriots, Harrison said, "Not saying the things that he's saying. I don't really have to worry about it, if he's on this team I'm retiring."
The Patriots may have gotten just what they were looking for -- disrespect -- on a day when off-the-field focus centered on being quasi travel agents.
Mitchell might not understand how the Patriots play off disrespect, even in jest. He called out one player, but there's plenty of teammates willing to join Harrison in getting motivated -- and getting even.
Mitchell, who went to UCLA, got Willie McGinest's USC Trojan dander up.
McGinest, who walked through the locker room wearing an "SC" hat, will take the slightest hint of disrespect and blow it up for motivational purposes.
"Rodney is the wrong guy to rile up before a game if you're a wide receiver," McGinest said. "You don't see any of the guys who make a difference talking, like [Donovan] McNabb, [Brian] Westbrook, [Jeremiah] Trotter, some of the guys on defense, like [Brian] Dawkins."
"They're vets," he added. "They've been in the game. We respect them a lot. We don't respect guys who run around and shoot their mouth off. Right now [Mitchell's] just showing a lot of disrespect. He hasn't done enough in this league to be talking on TV like that. Like I said, that's all we're going to talk about. He'll have to deal with that come game time."
McGinest said Mitchell was a "first-rounder, but an underachiever. He hasn't done anything in this league."
The Patriots don't trash talk before a game, but they sure have their say during it. As one opposing player said recently, "The Patriots do more trash talking on the field than any team we play. They back it up. That's for sure. They back it up."
The Patriots are looking forward to getting to Jacksonville. They have gone over the usual drills and have done some situational work in preparation for Philadelphia.
"It's always a little frantic," kicker Adam Vinatieri said, "but we've been through it and so we understand what needs to be done, especially the veterans."
Wide receiver/kick returner Bethel Johnson has been busy, especially off the field -- Super Bowl arrangements for his family have been a tough task to tackle. "I'm all done with it, just finished," he said. "I always said if I have a chance to [go to the Super Bowl] again, I'm just going by myself. I had about 20 people last time and this time it's about 15."
The Patriots are allotted 15 tickets and three hotel rooms per player. They have to pay for the extra rooms, but the tickets are complimentary.
Punter Josh Miller handed the task to his wife. He said the tickets and rooms were divvied up on a "first-come, first-served" basis.
"It's a pain but it's a welcome pain," Miller said. "I'd kill to have that pain again."
Plenty of loose ends to tie up. But yesterday, the Patriots didn't mind the bulletin-board material. Thank you, Freddie Mitchell.