What’s the first thing you think about when you think about Rodney Harrison?
My guess is “The Dirtiest Player in the Game,” but is he really the “dirtiest player” in the game?
I know that he has made some hits that are questionable but that happens when you play football. Football is a physical game and people get hurt playing it.
Harrison has never meant to injure anybody. In fact, he never has injured anyone.
Let’s look at some legends of the game that are (or are soon-to-be) Hall of Famers that have delivered their share of big hits to opponents.
Mel Blount, for instance. When you hear the name Mel Blount you think about the Mel Blount Rule: the rule that stopped defensive backs for making contact with the wide receiver beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage.
If you’ve ever watched highlights of Blount, most of it showed him laying somebody out, being aggressive, and bringing wide receivers to the ground after a great catch. With much respect, he made his career off of delivering big hits to anybody that had their hands on the ball.
Another player is Ray Lewis. I remember watching this year's AFC Divisional Round game when the fullback for the Tennessee Titans caught a screen pass for the first down and Ray Lewis hit him so hard, all I heard was a big POP!
Has anybody criticized Lewis for that? Absolutely not.
Another player who’s not in the same caliber of Blount or Lewis is Ryan Clark.
Did anybody see the hit he laid on Wes Welker? Welker was three catches away from extending his record of most consecutive games with seven or more catches, and he flat got laid out. He was out the rest of the game.
I know everybody saw the hit he laid on Willis MaGahee. He put the guy in the hospital for god sakes. Yet, I don’t hear anybody calling him a dirty player.
Rodney Harrison plays this game hard.
He goes out and tries to punish whoever has their hands on the ball, but he doesn’t want to injure anybody.
Look at Brian Dawkins, for instance. Brain goes out at plays ball and he's delivered a couple of big hits, too. Dawkins will be a Hall-of-Famer his first year on the ballot.
Another hard-hitting safety is Bob Sanders. How many times have you seen him lower his shoulders and delivered a big hit to a running back?
Answer: A lot.
I’m sorry, but this is football.
It’s a physical sport. If you don’t want to get hit, don’t play.
You have to anticipate people knocking you around for sixty full minutes.
Let’s look at Rodney Harrison’s career stats: 634 overall tackles, 30.5 sacks, 42 passes defended, and 34 interceptions with two touchdowns. His 30.5 sacks is an NFL record for a defensive back.
Rodney Harrison is one of only three players in NFL history to have recorded 30 sacks and 30 interceptions in the regular season of their careers, and he was the first to do so.
Pretty good stats, wouldn’t you think?
Well, Rodney Harrison shows up in the playoffs as well. He is tied with former teammate Asante Samuel with the most interceptions in the postseason with seven.
He has also shown the tendency to make big plays in the playoffs when the Patriots need it the most.
Last year, for example, he intercepted a David Garrard pass late in the fourth quarter to end the game.
Harrison has dealt with his share of injuries especially when he had this year's devastating injury.
Before he was injured he was in the top five in the league in tackles.
With him soon retiring he deserves some respect.
The hard work he puts in to improve his skills every season and his performance on and off the field should not go unrecognized.
He's made it to three Pro Bowls which signifies the respect he has from his peers and coaches around the league. Remember, all of this was coming from a fifth-round pick.
Its sad that the only thing people remember him for is the guy David Tyree made that catch over.
If you look at the play really closely you’ll notice that the catch wasn’t entirely his fault.
Who let Eli escape and throw the ball? Not Harrison.
Why didn’t more Patriots defenders come and help him out?
They didn’t, they just smiled at the camera hoping to be on every Super bowl highlight for eternity.
When you look at that play really closely, he wanted to go for the interception.
Why do you think David Tyree put the ball on the other side of his helmet? You think he was just trying to be fancy?
No, Harrison made a gamble. He wanted to be the one to solidify the Patriots perfect 19-0 season. When you gamble you know it’s a 50/50 chance you’re going to hit the jackpot and a 50/50 chance you fail.
Harrison has always been the defensive hero for the Patriots in the playoffs and he wanted to be the hero that sealed the deal for the first-ever perfect 19-0 season.
Unfortunately the play turned out to be on the opposite side of history.
It doesn’t mean he doesn’t belong in the Hall of Fame.