Rodney Harrison will be honored by the Boston Sports Museum at the 11th annual "The Tradition" on Wednesday at the TD Garden. But before receiving his award alongside fellow sports legends Pedro Martinez, Robert Parish, among others, Harrison took some time out to speak with NESN's Luke Hughes.
The two chatted about Harrison's time with the Patriots, the growing concern about concussions in the NFL, the Saints' bounty scandal and what he really thinks about Peyton Manning's move to Denver.
NESN: In terms of the Patriots, you played here for five or six seasons. Do you keep in touch with a lot of the players and coaches from your time with the team?
I don't keep in touch with a lot of the guys. No. I know that they have a job to do. I'm not one of these old retired players that is just trying to keep my foot, one foot, in the door with these guys. I respect what they're doing.
I love Tom Brady and the guys that play here. I respect what they're doing and we'll have plenty of time when they retire. Right now they are taking care of business. They know my allegiances and my respect and love and passion toward the Patriots, Bill Belichick, Mr. [Robert] Kraft and the facility.
I don't have to call them every day for them to know how I feel about them. And when it's time for me to give it to them, I give it to them as good as anybody. I'll give it to them the same way I give it to the Bengals or anybody else. Nothing but love.
NESN: Have you been keeping up with the team this offseason? What do you think of the team and some of the moves that they are making?
Harrison: To be honest with you I need to brush up on all of the offseason moves, as far as all of the moves that they make. I had some time to take off and do some things. I'll get caught up at some point in the next few weeks with everything that's going on.
Trust me, I've been around football a long time. It comes down to this: it comes down to going out there and making plays. I don't care who they bring in. If they can go out there and make plays, whether it's a rookie, veteran or whoever, as long as they can come in and make plays. It's all about going out there and making a difference. I know Bill Belichick. He's a built a young team, an aggressive team, a smart team, a team with depth and a team with a great quarterback. So they're going to be fine. They're going to be right back in the hunt this year.
NESN: There is some good talent in the defensive backfield for the Patriots. There's McCourty, Ras-I Dowling and Patrick Chung, do you see any of those guys that are elite players or guys that might shape their game after the way you went out there and played?
Harrison: Right now they are young players that have a lot of potential. They are young players that have gotten better, but no they are not elite players.
What's an elite player? An elite player is Tom Brady. An elite player is Troy Polamalu, or Ed Reed. [The Patriots] don't have an elite player back there at this point. Do they have Pro Bowl caliber, very consistent type players like that? Yes, they do. And you don't have to be an elite player, you just have to be a very good player.
I would prefer to be a good player that plays well a long time, and people can count on me. And that is what Belichick has done with this roster.
NESN: Now you said you thought the Patriots would be back in the hunt this year. What do you think they need to do to actually get back to the Super Bowl?
Harrison: I think they have to, just looking at everything, I think they need to be able to throw the ball down the field. Not just short, intermediate routes. I think they're going to have to do a better job of taking some shots down the field.
And really from a defensive standpoint creating more turnovers with the pass rush, not giving up as many big plays as they gave up last year in the secondary. I think if they can minimize those plays then they really have a great chance.
I mean they can only get better defensively. They weren't very good as we saw, but there were flashes when you have Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo and some of the young additions. They have the potential to be a very, very good defense. I just think they need to be a little more aggressive.
NESN: In terms of some other moves around the NFL. Peyton Manning was a big addition in the offseason. Do you think that he is going to end up panning out in Denver, or do you think he will actually be less effective than people think?
Harrison: I don't know what people think. But I don't think they're going to win a Super Bowl if thats what you're asking me.
Do they have the potential? They're going up against Kansas City. A young team, a good team, a team that's back healthy this year. A team that suffered and were basically decimated by injuries last year. And also they'll have to go up against the San Diego Chargers, a team with Phillip Rivers. Anytime you have a good young stalwart of a quarterback, you're always going to have a chance.
But it's not going to be as easy as people think, just plug Peyton Manning in and win. He's going to have to go out there and get adjusted to everything that's going on out there in the NFL after being out a year. So it's a big adjustment for him.
You have to hope for the Denver Broncos that key members of that team don't get injured and that's another thing you have to deal with. And then just the whole chemistry thing. Will it mesh together? Will Peyton Manning be a good fit?
I think any good quarterback with his leadership skills and his work ethic can have success. But I don’t see them going very far in the playoffs.
NESN: You're coming back to Boston in a few days for The Tradition, and I just want to congratulate you on such an honor. Now, you're going to be honored alongside guys like Pedro Martinez, Robert Parish among others. What does it mean for you to be honored along with those guys?
Harrison: I'm just a guy from Markham, Illinois, and to look at those legends. Wow. You know Robert Parish, that's just unbelievable to me.
To be honest, I was kind of like… when they said it I thought it was all but a joke. 'Like I'm getting honored? For what?' But I know that it's a big deal, and I really appreciate all the respect and love. I really love the Boston fans and this award and what it means to me and my family and all the hard work I put out on that field. What's not to say.
A lot of people enjoyed [watching my teams play]. I was a part of special teams with some special individuals that made a lot of people in the New England area feel good. And that makes me feel good because we work hard. I appreciate it.
NESN: You've obviously accrued a number of accolades over your career, whether it be Pro Bowls, Super Bowls, All-Pro Teams. Where does this award fall in line with all of those?
Harrison: Like I said, anytime you can be mentioned with any greats it's an honor. It's always satisfying. You always have a sense of gratitude and you're humbled by it. Growing up as a little kid I never thought that [I would] become some of the things I was able to accomplish.
I'm just so thankful and so blessed to have had this opportunity and I'm going to make the most of it. I'm going to go out there and have a good time and enjoy it. I'm going to thank the people that thought of me, and basically the people that are honoring me right now.
NESN: I feel like people know Rodney Harrison the player, or the analyst. But what do you like to do off the field or now in your post-NFL life?
Harrison: My number one passion outside of my family since I've retired is golf. I've really taken to it. I'm fortunate enough to live around a lot of retired athletes and corporate guys, just guys that like to golf. I'm a member over where I live.
NESN: You said you've been golfing a lot, what do you shoot these days?
Harrison: Right now I'm about a six handicap. But I'm still working, trying to get better. Man, it's a full-time job trying to be a good golfer.
NESN: What other hobbies or activities have you picked up in your time away from football?
I travel with the family. I'm a full-time dad. I'm a coach, I love to coach. I coach tee-ball. I coach youth football. I started with my son at six, seven, now it's eight. I'm the defensive coordinator, it's fun, it's enjoyable. I coach basketball. So really coaching is a passion of mine.
Playing golf, spending time with the family, I'm a full-time dad. And that's kind of the way I envisioned myself. I wanted to be around, to have the time and the opportunity to sit down with my family and be calm and be an active part of my kids lives. And I'm fortunate enough to do that now.
NESN: Well, Rodney, thank you for taking the time out to chat. I really enjoyed the conversation and congratulations again on such a fantastic honor.
Harrison: Thank you, sir. I appreciate you taking out a few minutes. I'm looking forward to getting back up to Boston and enjoying the night.
Photo via Facebook/Rodney Harrison37