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 safetyÂ 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 —Â during his first New England training camp.
Linebacker Willie McGinest: âThe main guy that he attacked and he was on was Tom Brady.”
Wide receiver Troy Brown: âRodney and Tom going back and forth verbally. Youâd just never seen Tom get rattled that bad, not even in games.”
Harrison: âTroy 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: âAnd then you look over at (head coach Bill Belichick), and heâd be over there with a smirk on his face, just loving it.”
Belichick: âBest 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 heÂ quicklyÂ 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 discussingÂ Harrison’s league-wide reputation as a dirty player — a characterization with which Belichick disagreed.
âHe wasnât 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 theyâre on the other team, you could be a little bit offended by it.â
“A Football Life: Rodney Harrison,” which featuresÂ rare footage of the aforementioned Patriots practice fights, premieres at 9 p.m. ET Friday on NFL Network.
Thumbnail photo viaÂ Debby Wong/USA TODAY Sports Images