Rodney Harrison was the pulse of the '03-'04 Patriots

Rodney Harrison was the pulse of the '03-'04 Patriots

There was no wrong answer among the three nominees for the Patriots Hall of Fame. But if I were putting odds on the three candidates – Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel and Rodney Harrison – odds would have been longest on the player who was here for the shortest time. 

And that’s why I don’t drive a nicer car. 

Rodney Harrison won the fan vote over fellow nominees Seymour and Vrabel and will be the next man inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame. 

If we’re being completely honest, the fact Seymour is closing in on a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but is still waiting on Foxboro’s does cause me to wince a little. 

And, since we’re being completely honest, I feel like Vrabel noses out Seymour in a photo finish based on versatility, cradle-to-grave contributions while with the team and being emblematic of that nebulous, indefinable, somewhat hokey concept of “The Patriot Way.”

But there may never be three more equally deserving candidates on the ballot. And with the pick being Harrison, I can quite easily pivot to making his case. 

And his most important contribution was putting the paddles to the chest of the franchise in 2003 when he was signed in the offseason. 

In July and August of 2003 Harrison was the catalyst for reinfusing the team with the vicious, competitive temperament it had in 2001 but which waned in 2002. 

Those training camp practices were watershed moments. The late Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant wrote this on August 1, 2003, just a few days after camp opened.

“In these dog days of training camp, when the only people the Patriots can beat up are their teammates, Harrison is hammering the Patriots offense as if he's still playing for the Chargers.

At one of the first scrimmages, Harrison hit Troy Brown, then poked him in the eye. The mild-mannered Brown caught the ball and in a rare fit of pique, threw it at Harrison.

"I've been getting the ball thrown at me every year," Harrison said. "That's all part of it." 

A few days later, Harrison bashed Brown again. Tuesday he hit Kevin Faulk with a head-high takedown. (Matt) Light jawed at Harrison and just as the two grabbed each other by the helmet, Lawyer Milloy jumped in and Tedy Bruschi did a flying leap onto the pile.

"It gets a little frustrating in training camp," Harrison said. "It's hot. You're tired. Everyone basically just wants to get it over with. When I'm on the field, I'm already in a foul mood."

So there are five Patriots Hall of Famers – Harrison, Brown, Faulk, Light and Bruschi –  and one you could make a case for – Milloy – losing their collective s*** because of what Rodney Harrison wrought.  

The tone he set carried over into the regular season. When Milloy was released and Harrison became his successor, the team dipped for a week. But Harrison – who understood perfectly the Darwinian reality of the NFL – never apologized for unseating a beloved player. The back of the secondary was his office now. No conversation needed. 

The 2003 and 2004 seasons were probably the greatest run of consecutive excellence the team had in its reign. 

Harrison’s play, playing style, bravado and personality meshed perfectly with the pieces in place and somehow – even though we all knew already how good he was before he got here – he became an upgrade over the former heart-on-his-sleeve leader of the defense, Milloy. 

He was at the epicenter of a defense that was the reason the Patriots won those rings. The plays he made (picking off Peyton Manning in the end zone in the 2003 AFC Championship, Ben Roethlisberger in the 2004 AFCCG), his constant search for any slight to motivate, his trash talking, borderline hits, using an opponent’s helmet for support as he got to his feet after a tackle, Harrison was the kind of player that made fans happy to pay for their season tickets. 

Maybe that’s why Harrison wins this fan vote despite Seymour being the more dominant and decorated player and Vrabel being one who contributed in more spots for longer. 

His style was identifiable. Around here, great talents with a nose for combat are the most celebrated. Harrison follows in the footsteps of Larry Bird, Terry O’Reilly, Cam Neely and whoever else you want to lob in there. He’s the forerunner of Julian Edelman. He was the People’s Patriot. 

As to the matter of Seymour and Vrabel, they are Patriots Hall of Famers, they just aren’t in yet. 

What gets interesting is the line forming at the door that those two are at the head of. Behind them stands Bill Parcells. Soon, Logan Mankins and Wes Welker become eligible. After them, Vince Wilfork doesn’t just join the line, he probably should go to the head of it. Same goes for Gronk five years hence. What about Adam Vinatieri. Stephen Gostkowski. Ernie Adams. Dante Scarnecchia. 

Then there are the Hightowers, Chungs and McCourtys to consider. Isn’t Hightower this decade’s Vrabel (yes, I know there are differences in durability and versatility; the comp stands)? Scott Chandler. OK, just seeing if you were still here. 

There are enough candidates from 2001 to 2019 to keep the line moving until 2032. 

There will be indignation expressed over candidates that aren’t yet in or those that are. Suggestions for “fixing” the process will be floated. 

Personally, I think this is the best way to do it. For instance, the Panthers have a Hall of Honor that includes PSL owners. The Packers inducted former GM Ted Thompson over the weekend. He is the 162nd individual in the Packers HOF and joins luminaries like Chris Jacke, Ryan Longwell and Ahman Green.  

Rodney Harrison said during that first training camp that he wasn’t here to make anybody like him. Well, he failed at that. 

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Patriots will play Dak Prescott amid best stretch of Cowboys QB's career

Patriots will play Dak Prescott amid best stretch of Cowboys QB's career

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott just played the best statistical game of his career, and that's not great for the New England Patriots, who host the NFC East leaders at Gillette Stadium in Sunday's Week 12 matchup.

Prescott completed 29 of 46 pass attempts for 444 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in a 35-27 win over the Detroit Lions. The fourth-year QB has averaged 366 yards per game with a total of nine touchdowns and two interceptions over the last three games. He's also completing 67.7 percent of his passes in 2019 and his 3,221 passing yards lead the league.

Prescott's impressive play is larger than a 4-game sample, though. Here are his stats over the last 16 games dating back to last season:

--69.3% comp pct
--104.8 passer rating 
--4,968 yards
--37 total TD
--12 INT
--8.5 YPA  
--11-5 W/L record

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave a glowing overview of Prescott's skill set Wednesday.

"Well we haven’t played him, so this is the first time we’ve played him. But right now, yeah, he’s super impressive," Belichick told reporters. "The way he’s going, might be more than that. Might hit six (thousand yards), I don’t know. This guy can throw the ball, he’s very accurate, he’s got great poise in the pocket, stands in there. He can extend plays and run if he has to, but he doesn’t do much of that unless he really needs to. He has great patience and poise, discipline in the pocket, gets his eyes down field. He’s a very good intermediate-to-deep ball-thrower.

"He’s got good weapons, but he’s been super impressive. Just, great, great quarterback – sideline throws, inside throws, in-cuts, posts, over routes, flag routes, you name it. Possession passes on third down, best third down team in the league, best passing team in the league, most big plays in the league – I mean, I don’t know where you want to start, they do it all. And, he does it all. He runs options, he runs read zones, keeps the ball in critical situations, tough guy to tackle, makes tough yards when he needs them, so he’s really good."

The Cowboys chose to give star running back Ezekiel Elliott a contract extension before the season and still haven't come to terms with Prescott. Elliott is a tremendous player, but the first 10 games have shown Dallas will only be as successful as Prescott. He is the Cowboys' most important player, and the Patriots' No. 1 ranked pass defense needs to slow him down or Dallas will have a good chance of leaving Gillette Stadium with a much-needed win.

Pats' D must beat Prescott in this area of the field>>>

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Patriots rookie Chase Winovich surprises his mother with new car

Patriots rookie Chase Winovich surprises his mother with new car

Chase Winovich once promised his mother he'd buy her a new car. On Wednesday, he followed through with that promise.

The New England Patriots rookie bought his mom a 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata and showed it off on his Instagram.

Winovich also included a video of his mother's reaction to the big surprise, along with a caption that reads, "I can never repay you, but here’s a start. I love you mom."

Take a look below (click arrow to watch video).

Back in early October, Winovich was fined $7,000 for throwing the ball into the stands after scoring his first NFL touchdown. The 24-year-old defensive end wrote a message to his mom apologizing.

"Sorry mom for launching that new car I promised you into the stratosphere during my celebration! Love you!" he wrote.

Looks like that little mishap only delayed the purchase one month.

Winovich is excelling in his first year as a pro. The Patriots' third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft has 4.5 sacks and 14 tackles through his first 10 games.

Finally being able to pay back his mother, of course, is his best highlight yet.

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