Patriots

Bill Belichick: Rodney Harrison ‘100 percent’ belongs in Hall of Fame conversation

Harrison wasn't named a semifinalist for this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class.

Bill Belichick gave his support to Rodney Harrison's Hall of Fame case on Friday. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

A few former Patriots players learned some good news and bad news on Wednesday on their chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Former defensive end Richard Seymour and former defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were named as semifinalists for induction for the 2022 class. However, former safety Rodney Harrison was left off the 26-player list after being named a semifinalist in 2021.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke to the media for the first time since Wednesday’s news and – unprompted – brought up his support for Harrison’s Hall of Fame case.

“I think that Rodney Harrison 100 percent belongs in the conversation,” Belichick said. “I’ve coached safeties that have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, not taking anything away from them, but certainly Rodney Harrison belongs in that conversation, and he certainly belongs in the conversation with other players that are already there. Again, all that’s out of my control.”

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Belichick that Harrison is “absolutely” in his personal Hall of Fame.

Harrison does have some accolades that make him an intriguing candidate for the Hall. While with the Chargers from 1994-2002, Harrison made the Pro Bowl twice and was a First Team All-Pro in 1998. He made an immediate impact when he joined the Patriots in 2003, getting named First Team All-Pro in 2003 and Second Team All-Pro in 2004, helping the Patriots win back-to-back Super Bowls in those seasons.

In addition to the accolades, Harrison has the most sacks by a defensive back in NFL history with 30.5. He was also the first player in NFL history to record 30 sacks and 30 interceptions over his career. Only Ray Lewis has joined Harrison since he accomplished the feat in 2007.

Harrison did share his disappointment in not being named a semifinalist but he said he’s also “OK” if he doesn’t ever make it.

“Just imagine some of the things that have gone across my mind, selfishly speaking, looking at the guys that they chose in front of me and saying, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It’s just one of those things,” Harrison said on WEEI’s “Merloni & Fauria.” “I’ve said this before, and I know a whole bunch of Hall of Famers, but I am never trading in my Super Bowl rings for a Hall of Fame jacket.

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“… The Hall of Fame, I can’t control. I went out there and did the best I could with what God gave me. At the end of the day I can’t control the rest. That’s up to somebody else.”

As for the two former Patriots players that are up for the Hall of Fame this year, Belichick made the case for both Friday, calling Seymour and Wilfork “the two best defensive linemen that I’ve coached.”

“Vince was a phenomenal player, and he was quite different from Richard. Richard was a phenomenal player and quite different from Vince,” Belichick said. “But both very dominant in their own way and kind of in their own position, even though Richard played nose his rookie year and Vince played end his rookie year.

“Vince is really an inside player and Richard is a three to a five-technique. Richard’s almost impossible to match up against, but in a way, Vince is impossible to block in the running game, and, in the passing game, there are some guys that matched up against him, but his overall strength and athleticism for his size was pretty impressive, and because we have players like Seymour, there was less of a need to use Vince on third down. Although, we used him on third down. He had some huge plays on third down, like in the AFC championship game against Baltimore. He really won that game with his fourth-quarter pass rush on [Joe] Flacco up the middle of the pocket.

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“I think it’s an interesting question. Again, in my Hall of Fame, those two guys are there without a doubt. When you start comparing apples and oranges and Vince’s style of play compared to a guy like John Randle or somebody like that, they’re just completely different players. Which one? Who do you like? With no criteria at all to work with at any position for any player, it’s just what flavor you prefer and what flavor somebody else prefers. That’s really what it comes down to. I don’t know. When you’re asking about judging somebody for the Hall of Fame, it’s hard. I can’t really make a say on that. I just think it’s so much a personal perspective from the voters.”

For Seymour, this is the fifth-straight year he’s been named a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame. He’s been named a finalist in the previous three years but fell short each time. Seymour, who played in New England from 2001-08, won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and was named a Pro Bowler seven times in his career to go along with five All-Pros.

This is the first year Wilfork was eligible for the Hall of Fame. He played the first 11 seasons of his career in New England, winning two Super Bowls and five Pro Bowls nods, and four All-Pro honors.

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