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Rodney Harrison Already Is Stirring Things Up

As widely reported and expected (we know it’s a big story when we spark a pissing match among reporters as to who had it first), safety Rodney Harrison has retired from the NFL and joined the football coverage at NBC. And Harrison already is mixing it up. And we like it. During a conference call announcing his arrival at NBC, Harrison and Tony Dungy got into a debate regarding Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. When the issue came up as to Manning’s recent expression of frustration regarding the status of offensive line coach Howard Mudd and offensive coordinator Tom Moore, Harrison had this to say (per Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe): “This is something I’ve discussed with Coach Dungy and I think it gives Tom Brady the edge over Peyton Manning in terms of leadership. If this went on in New England, it wouldn’t come out publicly. He wouldn’t make a big fuss over it. So many guys are looking up to [Peyton] that once they sense panic, they could panic. You have to control your emotions and not allow these things to get outside the walls.” In response, Dungy said that he doesn’t agree with the assessment of Manning’s reaction as “panic.” Said Harrison: “As a player, it’s your job to play football. This is OTAs. It’s not even minicamp yet. There is no sense of panicking. These things can be worked out. He’s been running the same offense for 11 years, it’s not like it’s new to him. That disappointed me, for him to publicly come out and say things. I thought it was a sense of panic.” Harrison also spoke separately with Dan Patrick (on the ironically-named Dan Patrick Show) regarding the thousands of dollars Harrison had to pay in fines for hits the league deemed illegal. And Harrison has no regrets, even regarding the helmet-to-helmet hit on receiver Jerry Rice that cost Harrison $111,000. “That was worth it,” Harrison told Patrick. “I mean I love Jerry, but to be able to knock his head off and to be able to make him pay. I’d spend a hundred grand on that any day.” Harrison still thinks it wasn’t a dirty hit. “It was a perfectly legal hit. I mean, it’s football. It’s not pansy football.” He also shrugged off criticism that he’s a dirty player. “Screw ‘em,” Harrison said. “I don’t care.” And Harrison acknowledged that he took plenty of punishment while delivering it. “I’ve knocked myself out so much I forget how many times I did it,” he said. Harrison also talked about his suspension for possession of HGH. After squabbling with Patrick over semantics, insisting (accurately) that he never tested positive while simultaneously admitting he was suspended for taking a banned substance, Harrison acknowledged it was a mistake and said he knew that what he was doing was wrong. He also said he’ll never do it again. And that’s a good thing, since Harrison will have no reason to do it again. Based on what he said at his retirement press conference earlier in the day, Harrison won’t be unretiring. “I have respect,” Harrison said in comments circulated by the Patriots. “For me, I don’t want guys on my team or guys I’ve played with to have to answer questions about Rodney Harrison’s return. When I made my decision to retire, I made my decision to retire. I want to walk away from the game. There is a point in time where we all have to walk away from the game and I just thought it would be very disrespectful for me to come back and forth and not make my decision. . . . “I never want to be a distraction and I just think that is so fair for the peers throughout the league as well as my teammates for not being distracted by Rodney Harrison. When I made my decision, I am complete with that. . . . Football has been good to me. I’ve worked hard. I’ve played hard. I’ve done some things that I never dreamt I could do and now it’s time to move forward to the next phase of my life. I respect people in National Football League enough not to put them on this joy ride -- the back and forth, the ups and downs of am I coming back and will I not come back? I am done and I am always going to be a fan of football.” And that’s good, because Harrison’s frank and edgy observations and opinions likely will make the experience of following the sport even more enjoyable for all the other fans of football.