Rodney Harrison wasn’t particularly well-liked around the NFL during his time with the San Diego Chargers.
And while Harrison nowadays is a beloved figure to Patriots fans, his teammates initially weren’t too fond of the hard-hitting safety when he first signed with New England in 2003.
In “A Football Life: Rodney Harrison,” which premieres Friday night on NFL Network, several ex-Patriots recalled Harrison getting under his teammates’ skin — and making life difficult for the franchise’s most important player — during his first New England training camp.
Linebacker Willie McGinest: “The main guy that he attacked and he was on was Tom Brady.”
Wide receiver Troy Brown: “Rodney and Tom going back and forth verbally. You’d just never seen Tom get rattled that bad, not even in games.”
Harrison: “Troy Brown would come across the middle, and I tried to run through Troy like he was absolutely the enemy. And then I hit (running back) Kevin Faulk and he throws the ball at me. There were fights, linemen pushing me and shoving me and punching me.”
Brown: “And then you look over at (head coach Bill Belichick), and he’d be over there with a smirk on his face, just loving it.”
Belichick: “Best practice player probably ever. Ruffled a few feathers, not in a dirty way, just in a highly competitive way. It made everybody else better.”
Belichick’s adoration for Harrison is evident throughout the documentary. The coach appointed Harrison as one of New England’s team captains in 2003 — knowing his teammates likely wouldn’t have voted him in — and he quickly became a leader on a team that went on to win consecutive Super Bowl titles.
The program also devoted a sizable portion of its run time to discussing Harrison’s league-wide reputation as a dirty player — a characterization with which Belichick disagreed.
“He wasn’t a cheap player,” Belichick said. “He was just an aggressive player. And he was a great player. When (players like Harrison) are on your team, you appreciate them. You love their toughness. You love their competitiveness. When they’re on the other team, you could be a little bit offended by it.”
“A Football Life: Rodney Harrison,” which features rare footage of the aforementioned Patriots practice fights, premieres at 9 p.m. ET Friday on NFL Network.
Thumbnail photo via Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Images