Q: Rodney, did this all happen fairly quickly? It seemed like it happened quickly to us. Did New England swoop in late?
RH: That's exactly what they did. I was out in Oakland visiting and my agent received a call back East and they told me they were interested in me coming out. I basically took a red-eye that night and they assured me that it was an important visit for me to come out there and it wasn't just a play-around visit. They were truly interested. I had to make sure of that, because first of all, I don't want to have to travel across the country and I don't want to waste their time and I didn't want them wasting mine. But, they assured me that it was a legitimate call, so I took a red-eye out of San Francisco and I was there first thing in the morning.
Q: Which day? Was that yesterday? You took the red-eye out on Monday?
RH: I took a red-eye… I got to Oakland… Monday. Monday night. Yeah, Monday night I took a red-eye and I arrived Tuesday morning at 7:00.
Q: Were you already pre-sold with either the Denver or Oakland opportunities, or were you waiting and when the Patriots came along you said, 'This is what I'm really looking for'?
RH: In my mind, I was kind of open to Denver and really open to Oakland. I put down a couple of visits in other places because I wanted to narrow down my short list. So, when New England called, [Bill] Belichick was seriously interested in me. He made it clear and I said that I would take a red-eye out. I wanted to go down there and not put it off. I wanted to get a deal done with some team as soon as possible.
Q: Why here? What makes them better than Oakland and Denver? Why uproot and come all the way across the country to play for this team?
RH: First of all, they're one year removed from the Super Bowl. Secondly, Belichick is considered a defensive mastermind. I watched Lawyer Milloy for so many years make big plays and roam the secondary and make big hits and really look like he's having a lot of fun back there. To have the opportunity to play on a team just removed from the Super Bowl, a team that went 9-7 and after being with the Chargers for so many years they were 8-8 last year. They're a team with a very good quarterback in Tom Brady and they have a lot of veteran players. That builds a good situation. I came up and sat down with Belichick and he assured me that I don't have to look over my shoulder in terms of my age and wondering if this was a one-year deal. I specifically told him that I didn't want this to be a one-year deal and he assured me that it wasn't going to be a one-year deal. He stepped up and from a financial standpoint, the offer showed a lot of interest. I'm still on the East Coast. I live in Atlanta, so I wanted to be a little closer to home. It was a good situation and my fiancée told me to go for it.
Q: What did he tell you about your role, given that Lawyer plays strong safety and you've been a down-in-the-box safety? Did they tell you anything about what your role would be here?
RH: They said my role could be pretty much anything. I know they play split safeties, I know they blitz with the safeties; they have their safeties close to the line. It could be pretty much anything. Out in Denver, I never knew if I was going to play free safety or strong safety. They said they were going to move me around out there. In Oakland, I knew I might have been at the strong safety. He just basically told me that he's watched me for years and he likes what I bring to the table. He knows that I play hard and I play intense and that I'm a pro. He wanted my leadership. When he told me that … also, he didn't mention one thing about injuries last year or anything that ever happened with the Chargers. He just said, 'I know you can play football and I want you on our defense.' Once that went down like that, and along with the staff, I knew some of the guys from the Pro Bowl, it was just a good fit for us.
Q: Rodney, you had been quoted as saying that you had always thought you'd play in Canada before you would play in New England. So certainly, this is a big move for you.
RH: Oh, no question because I had no idea that the Patriots were interested in me. I felt like I was going to pretty much stay out West either with Oakland or Denver. I really didn't want to play on turf with New Orleans or Atlanta. I had some interest in them because it was closer to home. Once the turf situation was…I knew about the turf situation and said I have to play on natural grass. That will give me the chance to be able to survive a lot longer because turf is so tough on your knees and your joints. So, yeah it was a surprise for me. But, when people step up to the plate and they tell you that you know that they want you and they show interest, you feel almost compelled to be there. Like I said, it was a good situation for me. I was in the office and I was very impressed with the signing of Rosevelt Colvin. I was in the office as he was leaving and to find out that they signed him and Tyrone Poole makes me understand that they are making a run at defense, I mean that is important. I know they have a great offense and they can score points, which I really haven't been that accustomed to. We struggled on offense but the offense of Chargers had got better with LT (LaDainian Tomlinson). But they (New England) have a great quarterback. They have the ability to put points on the board and that was important to me.
Q: You mentioned Rosevelt and you mentioned guys that you saw at the Pro Bowl. Does being a part of what can be an elite defense that can play to its potential is that something that really interest you too?
RH: Definitely. I mean, that's why I said the signing of Rosevelt Colvin along with, Richard Seymour who was in the Pro Bowl, Willie McGinest is a great player, along with Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy and those guys. I mean these are great players. To have an opportunity to play on defense with those guys, I mean it's really an eye opener and to play every week and you are sold out, the fans love their team down there, they embrace the team and that something that you get excited about. I played in San Diego for nine years and the weather was beautiful but we didn't sell out many games. We might have sold out when Oakland was there. But to see the fans enthusiasm that they show towards their team is pretty amazing.
Q: Did it speak to you at all that you played for nine years in San Diego and when the two main teams were coming after you and you are deciding between a Denver or Oakland, the two teams you probably played 18 times each, is that a sign of respect that made you say 'okay, I've been doing the right thing in this league?'
RH: Well, I should hope so. Whenever you play within your division, those are the teams that see you the most and game plan play the most, if they game plan for you or study you the most so those are the teams that know you the best. It made me feel good that those teams have a respect for me, but in the same respect I have to do overall what is best for me. That's what free agency is about. [With] free agency you have the ability to pretty much decide what is best for you and I mean, it was a surprise coming to New England, but a pleasant surprise. They showed a lot of interest and it really did it for me. Once I stopped here, I really didn't have to move anywhere else.
Q: Rodney, not to bring up a negative but, could you just address now that you have been away from it for a few months, the suspension and the head-to-head hit? I know that nobody on defense in this league seemed to be too happy with the way the NFL was cracking down on that last year.
RH: Well, it's a little bit of a tough situation because I've been pretty much schooled to play one way. And don't get me wrong, I am not going out there to try to hurt anybody but the NFL is such a wicked, rough tough game. It's not an easy game and guys are fighting for their lives out there. A couple of inches can decide if a team goes to the Super Bowl or if a guy is cut or if a guy plays in the league for 10 years. It's a tough, tough game. I mean, it's been unfortunate that I have been on that list of the suspended but I only know play one way. I understand that there are rules but for the same hits they are suspending me for, they put guys like Ronnie Lott in the Hall of Fame. I just don't understand it. You try to take heed, you try to be more aware of the helmet and the receivers helmet, I mean there is only one way to play football and that is 120 miles per hour. You just can't change a game after playing for so many years like that. I've been playing football since I was seven years old and I haven't changed. I might have gotten a little bigger and stronger and faster but the intensity and everything else in my heart has been the same since ever since I was seven years old. So that's what I bring and that's who I am.