A familiar voice came over the phone. It was a voice that hadn't been heard in New England for almost a month, and it belonged to Patriots defensive captain Rodney Harrison.
For the first time since he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Pittsburgh, Harrison spoke publicly about his health, his team and his future. The safety tore three ligaments in his knee when Steelers receiver Cedrick Wilson unintentionally rolled on him at the conclusion of what appeared to be a meaningless play early in the game. The play, however, proved to be costly for the Patriots. It left them without the heart of their defense for the remainder of the season.
While he may be out of action for 2005, fans shouldn't plan on holding any retirement parties for Rodney just yet.
"All I can say is this," Harrison said in a conference call on Oct. 14. "I'm going to work extremely hard to come back from this injury. I have no other intentions other than to come back and play next season."
Harrison vows to return to the playing field but he doesn't have a timetable for when that might be. Since he's never suffered an injury of this magnitude, he doesn't know how long it will take him to come back, but the All-Pro safety claims he is a fast healer.
"I'm 32-years old, but for some crazy reason my body responds well to injury," he said. "I can't honestly say what's going to happen next year or what the future holds for me in terms of football but I'm going to work my tail off to get back on the field."
Harrison has yet to have surgery on his injured knee because he has to wait for the swelling to go down before doctors can operate. He is expecting the procedure to take place some time in the next month. As for now, Harrison says he is just trying to stay positive.
"Mentally I have been upbeat," Harrison said. "I am a very positive person. I always tell kids there are three things I abide by: be positive, be positive and be positive. Adversity is going to hit but it's how you deal with that adversity that's important. You have to understand that these things happen and what's important is how you respond."
In typical Harrison fashion, he doesn't want his injury to be a distraction to the team. Harrison is known as being a leader for the Patriots on and off the field and he showed why he is thought of in such high regard with the comments he made to the media during his conference call.
"I don't want this season to be about me," Harrison said. "You can't look back on what happened to Rodney Harrison. The emphasis is not on me. The emphasis is on this team and what it needs to do to improve on defense and in the secondary."
Harrison isn't certain how long it will take for the defense to gel but with all the new players being plugged in, it may take a little time before everyone is on the same page. The veteran has talked to some of the younger players and he is confident they have what it takes to turn the Patriots struggling pass defense around.
"I have talked to James Sanders. We're different players but I know James is going to go out there and hit. He'll do fine. James is a talented player. He's smart and one of those rookies that has a lot more wisdom beyond his years. Ellis Hobbs too. I thought he played well against Atlanta. I think we'll be just fine at the strong safety position."
Harrison may be acting as a mentor to the younger players but one thing he isn't doing is complaining about what happened to him. According to the hard-hitting safety, feeling sorry for himself is not the way to deal with a difficult situation like this.
"You never ask, why me?" Harrison said. "I think that's very selfish. When success comes your way, when your winning Super Bowl rings, intercepting passes and taking them to the house, you never ask, why me? It's selfish to ask it when something goes wrong."
Harrison will be doing most of his rehabbing with the team. He did say he would probably do some in Atlanta as well but pointed out he is still a big part of this team. Harrison wants to stay close and help out any way he can. One person who may not want him close by, at least not when the Patriots play, is his wife. According to Rodney, he isn't the best person to be around when the Patriots are playing.
"I got into some trouble last week," Harrison said. "I was yelling and screaming at the TV and I yelled so loud and my son, and he's a pretty tough cat, I was yelling so loud at the TV at an official's call or something and I scared my son. He started to cry so I realized I really needed to calm down. It's tough because you are sitting there yelling and screaming at the TV and you wish you could go out there and do something but you can't. It's frustrating."
No one can deny what Harrison means to the Patriots and how important he is to the success of their defense. He may not be on the field physically, but the team can expect contributions from Harrison throughout the year when it comes to advice, support or anything else he can do to help the Patriots win. That's just the kind of player Harrison is. As for the future, Harrison is determined to prove all his doubters wrong.
"I'm excited because this is another challenge," Harrison said. "I hear people are doubting if I can come back and be of any use. That's the kind of thing that motivates me to come back."
If anyone can come back and prove people wrong, it's Rodney Harrison. If he says he is going to try to play next season, there is a good chance fans will see No. 37 back on the field in 2006
Patriots/Broncos connectionsBill Belichick was an assistant special teams coach and assistant to the defensive coordinator for the Broncos in 1978…Daniel Graham, Tom Ashworth, Chad Brown and Christian Fauria all played college football at the University of Colorado… Tyrone Poole played in all 16 games at cornerback for the Broncos in 2002…Broncos center Tom Nalen was born in Foxborough, Mass. and attended Foxboro High School and Boston College…Tight ends coach Pete Mangurian was an assistant coach for the Broncos from 1988-92...Broncos defensive line coach Andre Patterson was a defensive assistant for the Patriots in 1997.
NotesTom Brady completed five passes of more than 30 yards last week against Atlanta…Adam Vinatieri has played in 149 straight games, the third longest streak in team history…Deion Branch ranks second in the AFC with 30 receptions…Willie McGinest needs just five sacks to pass Julius Adams for second place on the team's all-time sack list.