James Harrison’s much-anticipated introduction to the New England media came and went almost as quickly as his departure from Pittsburgh and arrival in Foxborough. Barely two minutes in, the linebacker cut short his first public comments to the local press corps since joining the Patriots earlier this week.
“It feels good” to be a member of the Patriots, he told the assembly around his locker inside Gillette Stadium. When asked what motivates the 39-year-old to continue playing after 15 NFL seasons, he responded, “I like to compete. That’s one reason…”
“I told him I liked him much better in our colored jerseys,” quarterback/co-captain Tom Brady smiled in response to a reporter’s question about having Harrison as a teammate.
It’s not often that a player of Harrison’s caliber (Steelers’ sack leader, five-time Pro Bowler, two-time first-team All-Pro) goes from one of the top playoff seeds to another at this time of year. He divulged that “there were on other offers” for his services, but refused to elaborate on a statement he posted earlier in the day on his Instagram gallery.
“If anybody though I signed a two-year deal with [Pittsburgh] at age 39 to sit on the bench and collect a check and a participation trophy, they’re mistaken,” he wrote in part to explain what led to his abrupt split from the Steeler organization with whom he spent the bulk of his NFL career.
Harrison admitted that it’s been a whirlwind experience this week coming from one end of the Steelers-Patriots rivalry to the other and having to absorb and entirely new playbook on short notice. Yet, he sounded confident that he’ll be ready to play this Sunday versus the New York Jets in New England’s regular season finale.
“I’m going to go out whenever the coaches tell me,” he asserted.
When it became evident to him that the line of questioning was not going to remain on the upcoming Jets contest, Harrison thanked reporters for their time and went about his business.
“He is excited to be here and hopefully he can help us win,” added Brady. “I know it’s late in the year, but guys who have played in these big games and those situations, it always helps having good players out there. Hopefully, he can go out and do a great job for us.”
Sights set on Jets
After sitting out Thursday’s practice with an unspecified illness, tight end/co-captain Rob Gronkowski was back on the field Friday.
“Yeah, just a quick bug,” he assured reporters. “Back to normal. Feeling fine.”
Gronkowski admitted that locking up the No. 1 playoff spot in the AFC with a win over New York Sunday is important to him and his teammates.
“It’s huge. It’s motivating. You don’t play sports not to be number one. It’s crucial… to get home field advantage and that’s why we’ve got to put all our attention versus the Jets, so we can go out there, we can compete, we can play and do our best to get the win.”
Brady, meanwhile, was out on Wednesday with both a recent Achilles issue and a left shoulder problem, which was a problem for him earlier this season.
“I’ll be out there Sunday,” Brady promised.
Although he wasn’t seen on the field for practice Friday, defensive end Eric Lee, who’s been on the injury report of late with an ankle ailment, spoke with reporters afterward.
“Yeah, everything’s fine,” he maintained. “Any [injury] questions, talk to Coach Belichick.”
The news wasn’t so positive for defensive tackle Alan Branch or running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee, all of whom are dealing with knee injuries that prevented them from practicing all week.
Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, however, took part in his third straight session since being designated as New England’s second and final player of this season to return from the injured reserve list.