In a recent coaches poll, where coaches were advised not to vote for their own players, Patriots SS Rodney Harrison took home the gold in a fitting category: Dirtiest Player.
18 coaches responded to this question, and 11 of them picked Harrison. Harrison maintains he simply plays with a high level of intensity, and he doesn’t consider himself dirty.
Teammates and ex-teammates agree with the Patriots' safety. Deion Branch, for example, drew a line between Harrison’s 110-percent effort and the malicious characteristics of Texans’ Travis Johnson (Johnson knocked out QB Trent Green, who suffered a concussion, and proceeded to stand over the QB while taunting him).
"He’s not that type of dude, I promise you," Branch said. "He's not going to go into a game and try to hurt someone. I can speak like this because I played with him. And I know for the people who didn't play with him, you could understand why they would say it, but he is not that type of guy. That is not his game."
Even opponents agree with Branch’s sentiment. Brandon Stokley, never a Harrison teammate, shared his views on the matter: "It really doesn't bother me...it's a violent, aggressive game. I really don't think it's a big problem in the league."
When asked about the reputation, Harrison shrugged off the question, as he has done every year of his career.
"It's something that I can't change," Harrison said. "If someone thinks that of me, that is what they think. But if you talk to the guys that have played with me, the guys that before I come to a team and played with, they say, 'You are a dirty son of a gun, but I would love to have you on my team.' But I'm not dirty. I just play hard."
In response to another question in the poll, NFL coaches voted on the smartest offensive player (excluding quarterbacks) in the league. 30 coaches responded to this question, leading to Randy Moss being listed at No. 2. Moss fell just one vote short of Hines Ward, who won the honor.