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Rappin' Rodney

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 22, 2010 05:02 PM

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rodneyfinn1022.jpgIf you've seen a photo that summarizes Rodney Harrison's Patriots career better than this one, I'd love to see it.

Kodak moments aside, here's some linkage to today's media column. The lead item was the result of a conversation earlier this week with the great Mike Gorman, who will be calling Celtics games alongside Tommy Heinsohn for the 30th consecutive season.

Gorman should be regarded as a certified Boston broadcasting icon, but he's underrated and a bit overlooked for some reason. Maybe it's that his pitch-perfect, unobtrusive calls ("Takes it . . . makes it!") and uncanny knack for staying in the flow of the game is overshadowed by Heinsohn's larger-than-life personality. Maybe it's his utter disinterest in self-promotion. What ever the reason, let's just call him easily the best play-by-play man in town and go from there.

Anyway, it's the second item in the column -- and the altered view of the cast-wearing man in the above picture concerning the game he played so ferociously -- that I want to elaborate on here. I hate wasting a good interview, and Rodney Harrison, the former Patriots star safety who spends his Sundays sharing his NFL opinions and insights from the set of NBC's "Football Night in America" studio show, at least when he's not taking good-natured-but-kinda-serious jabs at fellow analyst Tony Dungy, is most certainly a good interview.

Also, you may have noticed his name in the news a time or two this week.

Almost assuredly the hardest-hitting safety ever to return a call from a Chuck E. Cheese, where he was doing the Mr. Mom thing Thursday afternoon, Harrison was typically candid as he talked about the reaction to his controversial comments that players should be suspended for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Here are a couple of outtakes from the conversation . . .

* * *

rodneycard.jpgAs noted in the media column, Harrison recognizes that his words might have seemed a bit hypocritical and/or contradictory.

After all, he is the most fined player in NFL history and was widely perceived as dirty by his peers. Yet now that he's no longer playing, the game is too violent?

Harrison, who said offhandedly that he thinks he had in the vicinity of 100 concussions (yes, 100) in his playing days "by the standards for a concussion they go by now," said the reason for his change in perspective is a simple one.

Now that he's no longer playing the game, he sees beyond it.

"I when I was playing, I had the gladiator mentality," Harrison said. "I couldn't see outside the box. Now I'm two years removed from the game now. I'm a father, I'm older, I'm more mature. I realize that football isn't life. I retired when I was what, 36? I realized I've got the rest of my life. I don't want kids to suffer headaches, post-concussion syndrome, migraines, depression, all of these things. I want these guys to live good, healthy, fulfilling lives. You don't want to see people get hurt, like a Darryl Stingley situation, but with the size and speed of the players these days, I mean, man, something bad is almost inevitable, and we have to do what we can to prevent it before it happens.

"I know that contradicts the way I played the game to some point, but I see things differently now that I'm not out on that field. I don't think that's a bad thing. It's called growing up and keeping an open mind."

Harrison admitted the reaction to his comments has been mixed, and shared an anecdote about a fan confronting him at the gym this week.

"He was like, 'Rodney, why did you have to go and say all of that stuff about the hits? Don't you of all people know it's part of the game," Harrison recalled. "But I got him to see it my way when I said, 'Listen, would you feel the same way if DeSean Jackson was your son laying on the ground motionless? Because that's the point. People are so used to seeing these guys, me included, going out there and killing each other and you forget that they are human beings. They are brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles, you know what I'm saying?

"We always have to remember that," said the ex-safety dad, talking on the phone from Chuck E. Cheese.

* * *

finnmerwiweather.jpgIt's not an exaggeration to say that Brandon Meriweather, whose helmet-to-helmet hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap was one of the blows Sunday that got the league riled up, is perhaps the most frustrating and enigmatic player remaining on the Patriots' roster now that Laurence Maroney has tap-danced his way to Denver.

He hits hard and with malice. He runs very well for a safety. He's big and rangy.

He dances after making a tackle following a long gain. He takes bad angles. He freelances too much.

Some call him Tebucky Meriweather. (Well, I do.) Others wonder if that's an injustice to Tebucky Jones.

But it should give pause to Meriweather's critics that Harrison, who played with him for two seasons in the New England secondary, does not hesitate to praise the fourth-year safeties work ethic and ability.

"I told Brandon, there's two ways you can handle this," Harrison said. "You can handle this like a jerk or you can be humble about and apologize and let people know you're sorry. You can still be aggressive, you can still be a big hitter, but you've just got to be a little smarter, because you're team needs you. I don't want the same thing that happened to me to happen to you over the course of your career. You're a fantastic young player and I don't want you getting that reputation of being dirty. Because it overshadows everything you will do on that field."

Harrison also said he advised Meriweather in a conversation this week to avoid the same mistakes he made, which Harrison, justifiably, believes cost him accolades over the course of his career. It is curious that Harrison made half as many Pro Bowls in his career as Lawyer Milloy has.

"That's my point to Brandon," Harrison said. "There's no way in the world, when I look at my resume and then look at some of these guys playing now and it'll say [on the current player's list of accomplishments] three-time Pro Bowler and I'll wonder, 'How the heck did he make the Pro Bowl more than me?' I had a year [2000] where I had over 120 tackles, six sacks, six interceptions, and I didn't make the Pro Bowl. My reputation was held against me. There's no reason why I shouldn't have been a six, seven, eight-time Pro Bowler. Because I played hard, and made plays, and made an impact, and played on championship teams.

"I got my Super Bowl rings, which comes above all else, but I just don't want Brandon to have to deal with stuff like that. He's too good of a kid -- we played on the same teams, and I know his real personality -- he's not dirty, he's not a cheap-shot artist, and I want people to know that."

About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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