FOXBORO -- James Harrison was certain he had more football left in his aging but powerful body. The Steelers thought otherwise, letting the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year rot on the bench or sending him home, inactive week after week.
The Patriots were the only team to offer Harrison a contract after he cleared waivers last week and were almost immediately rewarded Sunday, just a handful of days after the edge setter arrived.
"I don't really listen for what people say I can do," said Harrison. "I listen for what they say I can't do. I want to prove them wrong. I want to show them I'm able to still do it."
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Admittedly, Harrison can't do it like he used to. The man is 39, after all. But he did enough Sunday to make you think he can help the Pats when the playoffs roll around in two weeks.
Harrison played 28 of 57 possible defensive snaps, setting the edge, dropping into coverage when needed and then finishing with a flourish, recording a pair of sacks.
"He worked really hard to get things down and to handle the roles that he was in today," said Bill Belichick of Harrison. "Very professional, has a lot of experience, but not in this system so he had to do a lot of things to try to acclimate himself to what we do, and terminology, and adjustments and so forth. He really worked hard on that. He got better every day. You could see that through the course of the week. Sometimes it piles up and the load just becomes -- there's a diminishing return effect. In his case, I would say that wasn't the case."
Harrison has been used to playing essentially one way for the better part of his 16-year career. His brief immersion into the Patriots' way of playing defense was a shock to the system and Harrison doesn't feel as comfortable as Belichick tried to make it sound.
"I'm not acclimated," he said, cutting off a questioner. "I was getting a lot of help. The guys that were out there that have been here were helping me out."
It's been odd for Patriot players to grow accustom to having Harrison as a teammate. In his previous lives with the Steelers and even the Bengals, Harrison made his dislike of the Patriots known whenever he had the opportunity. And it wasn't the run-of-the-mill, "I hate them because we're rivals." No, it went to a different level, invoking "Spygate" and more.
"It's certainly different," admitted Matthew Slater. "Hard-nosed guy. Great competitor. But it's easier seeing him wear 92 for us than someone else."
Lawrence Guy also had to stare at Harrison from the opposing sideline for a few seasons in Baltimore. Again, those two teams don't like each other, but for different reasons. I asked Guy about those days, saying I couldn't imagine Harrison was well-liked by the Ravens.
"I plead the Fifth," smiled Guy.
As for how Guy feels now, "He's a great dude. An awesome teammate."
Laughter ensued, but you get the point. This is unusual because of the player, not the circumstance, which -- as Harrison reminds us -- happens all the time in any line of work.
"it's like you going to report for a different news channel or paper," he said. "This is no different."
Harrison will have an some extra time to prepare for the Pats' next game. They've got the first-round bye. That means plenty of time to study and learn this defense. But in the not-to-distant future, Harrison has something else in mind.
"My focus right now . . . it's Sunday, right," he asked. "That means tomorrow is Monday. Monday is leg day."
And to Harrison, probably another opportunity to prove those that doubted him they were wrong.