Rodney Harrison reflects on replacing Lawyer Milloy

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Rodney Harrison reflects on replacing Lawyer Milloy

Covering the Patriots, you know you have to keep your head on a swivel. Any time of year, any time of day, no matter how serene things seem, chaos is a phone call, email, text or – now – Slack message away.

This is why when one of my co-workers starts a conversation with, “You see the (fill in player name here) news?” the needle on my anxiety meter pins and I say with great irritation, “Tell me what it is and I’ll tell you if I did.”

There’s no need to go through all the moves since January of 2000 but the one that started it all – the one that trumps them all – was the release of Lawyer Milloy.

Nobody was ready for the player who was the William Wallace of the 2001 Super Bowl champions to get cut five days before the 2003 opener. But cut he was. And the man that made Milloy replaceable – Rodney Harrison – will go into the Patriots Hall of Fame this summer.

I talked to Rodney Harrison on Quick Slants the Podcast about coming to the Patriots, why and how he beat out Milloy and the awkwardness of the days after Milloy was cut.

The stage was set for Harrison to become the back-line enforcer Milloy had been in the first days of training camp.

“When I was released from San Diego, I was pissed off,” said Harrison. “When I came in I was going to hit everything that moved, I was going to make my presence known. I didn’t care if Lawyer Milloy or who was there. (I didn’t care) if it was Willie McGinest or Kevin Faulk coming up and telling me calm down.

“I’d say, ‘Nahhh, I can’t calm down because I’m on a mission.’ That was all part of me,” Harrison continued. “Then I got to the point where Willie McGinest said, ‘OK, Rodney, we respect you. We know that you can play. We respect you. You can’t knock (out your teammates during practice).’ I said, ‘OK, I’m good now.’ "

Did Milloy know that he was in a competition for his job?

“I don’t really know because Coach Belichick basically said, ‘You guys work it out, who’s gonna play left safety and right safety. Whatever you guys wanna do.’ I felt we did do things similar but I felt I had the edge in one thing over Lawyer. I could cover. I felt I was a better cover guy than Lawyer. I covered tight ends, Tony Gonzalez for years, Shannon Sharpe so I knew I was a great cover safety, I could cover tight ends and guys in the slot and I think that’s what Belichick saw as the difference between us.

“Lawyer was a great, great safety,” Harrison reminded me. “He was a very emotional leader, he made big plays in some of the biggest moments, but when I came in I knew I had to up my game and show some leadership and show the intensity I’d showed in San Diego for nine years.”

As it happened, Milloy was released, the Buffalo Bills signed him and that Sunday the Patriots opened the 2003 season in Buffalo. New England got blasted 31-0.

Tough week?

“Yeah it was an awkward time especially because they came out and kicked our butts,” said Harrison. “You had (ESPN analyst) Tom Jackson on television saying, ‘Coach Belichick lost his guys.’ But all that did was give us a level of focus that we needed and it propelled us. We went 14-2 that year.”

Milloy wasn’t just a safety and a teammate, though. He was a person who laid himself bare on the field and off. He was very close with Ty Law, Tom Brady, Willie McGinest and so many other key players after being a Patriot since 1996.

“It was tough initially,” Harrison said. “But I had a conversation with Tom and some other guys and said, ‘Hey, Lawyer is no longer here,’ and I was like, ‘Hey, OK I’m the guy replacing Lawyer. I’m about to take my game to the next level.’ And that’s when all hell broke loose. I just went out there and played reckless. I played free, I had fun, I had great players around me, I didn’t feel like I had to do everything which was sometimes the case out in San Diego. You always felt like you had to do everything. When I was with the Patriots, I felt like I could do my job and do it more efficiently because I didn’t have to worry about doing everything.”

Any time you get Harrison on the line, you know you’re going to get high-energy conversation and some great anecdotes. Which is why you get him on the line in the first place. Give a listen to the rest of it right here.

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Tom Brady posts selfie with rival Peyton Manning: 'We were friends this whole time'

Tom Brady posts selfie with rival Peyton Manning: 'We were friends this whole time'

The NFL might never again see a quarterback rivalry as awesome as the one between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Brady's New England Patriots and Manning's Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos teams squared off in many classic regular season and playoff battles, including a few AFC Championship Game matchups.

Despite the intense on-field rivalry, these legendary NFL QBs are friends off the field, as Brady reiterated in a tweet posted Wednesday featuring a selfie of him and Manning.

It's not often you see arguably the two-best quarterbacks in NFL history in one photo. 

Brady is coming off his sixth Super Bowl title, and oddsmakers like the Patriots' chances of winning a record seventh championship next season. Manning didn't enjoy the same postseason success as Brady, but he did win one Super Bowl each with the Colts and Broncos, in addition to many regular-season records that still haven't been broken.

The Brady-Manning rivalry was similar to the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson rivalry for the NBA in the 1980s -- both players pushed each other to new heights, and made their respective sports more exciting in the process.

Edelman reveals when he earned Brady's trust>>>

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Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

It’s quiet time in the NFL. Everyone knows that. 

But the quiet only applies to breaking news (unless the Texans decide to randomly fire someone else and not replace him in the next few weeks). 

It’s never hard to generate a conversation that morphs into an argument that slips into name-calling and finally devolves into a wild speculation about the circumstances under which a person was conceived. 

You can rank the Top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL for instance. That may get some conversation started. 

Or, you can simply post a picture on social media of one of the all-time great catches in Super Bowl history and then let nature take its course. 

That’s what happened when my Twitter buddy Dov Kleiman posted a quick video of Julio Jones’ amazing sideline catch in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51.  

The coverage from Patriots corner Eric Rowe couldn’t have been better. The placement of the ball by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — probably nine feet in the air, moving at high speed and over the boundary — was pinpoint. And the catch had four elements — the leap/extension, the securing, the toe tap and the collision with the ground. 

It put Atlanta in position for the game-securing field goal. (Spoiler: That didn’t happen.)

The Jones catch was as good as it gets. 

But was it better than Julian Edelman’s catch which came a little more than two minutes later? 

It wasn’t long before someone replied to Dov with the contention that it wasn’t.

Like Jones’ catch, Edelman’s had multiple elements. 

The hash marks on an NFL field are 18 feet, six inches apart. Edelman is in the air above the right hash when the ball is tipped. He lands, gathers momentum, takes a sidestep and dives fully extended in the time the ball takes to drop to the ground, probably covering at least 10 feet. He wrestles the ball from a trio of Falcons defensive backs then — with the ball inches above the ground — releases it so he can secure his grip better. 

And it put the Patriots in position to continue a drive for the game-tying touchdown. (Spoiler 2.0: Happened.)

Which is the better catch? 

Jones’ was the more gracefully classic NFL catch, up there with Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl-winning catch in 2008 in degree of difficulty. If it were Edelman on the receiving end of that throw and not Jones, I don’t think Edelman would have made it. 

But Edelman’s was the more improbable and bizarre catch. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a catch quite like it and that’s taking into account the Jermaine Kearse quintuple-touch catch near the end of SB49, Antonio Freeman’s “He did what?!” catch on Monday Night Football and myriad other double-tip catches. 

Edelman covered an insane amount of ground and only someone with the rarest of short-area quickness could have done what he did. Jones might have caught Brady’s pass outright but I don’t think he would have caught it after it was tipped as Edelman did. 

State your case for which catch was better. Show your work. 


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