New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on January 9, 2008.
Q: I'll ask this to you because you've known Junior Seau longer than anybody in this organization: What would it mean to you to see him through on his quest?
RH: I mean it would be tremendous. For a guy like me who has played with Junior for so many years, actually seeing the sacrifices that he's made, to see how hard he has worked, to see everything - his leadership. He's been in the league 18 years. That would definitely mean a great deal.
Q: Do you think other guys feel the same way about him?
RH: I think so. A lot of guys respect Junior. They respect what he brings to the table, just his consistency, his hard work, the commitment to just one goal and that's to win each and every day. One thing that he says is that he didn't come here to practice, but the guy practices harder than anyone I've ever seen. [He's] just a guy that's a consummate pro and a guy that probably is the most influential person in my career.
Q: This game against Jacksonville is kind of being billed as finesse versus physicality. Do you take exception to that assessment?
RH: I mean, I don't see how you can get to a point where you're 16-0 being a finesse team. We're a very physical team, but we play… But it doesn't matter. If we have to play finesse, we'll play finesse. If we have to play physical, we'll play physical. It doesn't matter and I think that speaks to the versatility of this team, not in just the players but the type of attitude, the type of personality. We can get down with whoever.
Q: To that point, you've always been known as a heavy hitter and somebody who relishes in that type of game. Do you, at this point of the season, relish in this type of game?
RH: It's football. This is what you've worked you're whole career for. Like Junior said, the opportunity to play in the postseason, that's why you've worked so hard, ever since the start of the offseason minicamps and training sessions. You want this opportunity, to go out there and show the world what you can do. We had a great regular season, but that's behind us. Now, we have to start over, turn over a new leaf and start from the bottom. We're extremely hungry. We're well-rested and we'll be ready to go.
Q: Richard Seymour said yesterday that he felt he was getting closer and closer to where he wanted to be after missing the first several weeks. What does that mean to the team in particular against Jacksonville?
RH: It just means that we're getting a guy that's been a five-time Pro Bowler, All-Pro, one of the best, if not one of the best guys out there in the league back. I know better than anyone how tough it is to play coming off an injury. It's tough when you're not confident in your abilities to move, to push off and to explode. But if Richard's says he ready, that's great news for us because, like I said, he's one of the best.
Q: What unique challenges do the size of Jacksonville's receivers and tight ends present to you?
RH: They're huge. We're not an overly big secondary, as far as height. We have guys, Asante [Samuel], I think he's 5-10, 5-11. Ellis is probably 5-9. James Sanders, he's maybe 5-11. Their guys are all 6-4 and bigger. For us, we know that everyone bills them to be aggressive and run the ball, but they like big plays down the field. They have guys that are capable of making plays downfield, jumping over you. We watched film on the tight end today and he was making plays all over the field. [David] Garrard, he'll drop back and he'll throw it up and he has confidence that those guys will go up there and get it.
Q: Is there any difference preparing for a game in which, if you lose, the season's over as compared to a regular season game?
RH: I think that if you allow the pressure to get to you, I think it can wear on you, but we've been in this situation before, many times. We have a lot of confidence, a lot of experienced guys. We know what it takes to win. Regardless of what's said in the media, through the media by you guys, we all understand that it's about execution and going out there, making sure that we do things right, the way we drew them up during the week and going out there and playing football and not worrying about what's going to happen. If we go out there and execute and do what we need to do, we should come out with a victory.
Q: That whole defensive line and what they do down there, what does that do for you in terms of getting pressure and making it easier for you in coverage. How much does it help to have the kind of line in front of you?
RH: I think it's pretty relative to your pass rush and being able to make plays on the ball, getting your hands on it whether it's interceptions or balls batted, as well as coverage, allowing them to get up there and having a guy like Mike Vrabel get 12.5 sacks this year. The pressure's been tremendous. We've been able to really play. We've been unfortunate this year because we've given up some big plays in the secondary off some broken plays. We have to keep everything in front of us and we have to give ourselves a chance. Those guys have done a really good job of putting pressure on the quarterback and allowing us to play some great defense back there.
Q: How much pride have you guys taken in playing your best football in the final minutes of the game. You held against Baltimore this year and then won it. How special is that?
RH: I think anyone can play well when it's the first, the second, the third quarter, when things are tight, but it's those critical moments. That's what we live for and that's what we prepare for - situational football - making sure that we have a tough, physical group that plays well under pressure. And that's Bill [Belichick's] philosophy. He's preached that ever since I've been here. You have to have that because you have to have the ability to have confidence in yourself, as wells as others, to go out there and make plays and to do things when it counts and when it matters most and that's in those critical situations.
Q: When you talk about Junior Seau's career, is there a favorite story that you have?
RH: I don't know what game we were playing, but we were playing in San Diego, at home, and Junior got carted off. He hurt his leg or something like that and he got carted off and Junior was the inspirational leader. It was a huge blow. I thought he was probably lost for the season. So he goes in and, whatever they did up in there, he comes back five minutes later. [His] first play back, he goes and gets a sack and he gets up and he's cheering. He's pumping that arm and it was pretty amazing to show that heart and the character of that guy. That just sums up Junior right there. You can never count him out. He talked about his age and never allowing the world to tell you if you should play and how good you could be. That's something that I learned from him and keep with me to this day.
Q: Given that he's walked away from this game once already, do you think he appreciates this more? Does this feel more like gravy to him?
RH: I think he definitely appreciates the opportunity. I mean you can just tell by his work ethic that he's never taken a single day for granted. He's always the first one here, one of the last guys to leave. I walked in yesterday, I couldn't sleep, I was up around 5 a.m. and I was here around maybe 5:45, 6:00 and Junior was here already. That just shows that he isn't taking anything for granted. He knows this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity sometimes and he walked away from the game and he came back. He had the opportunity, got hurt last year, and now he's taking advantage of it and making the most of it.
Q: What was he doing here at 5:45?
RH: Lifting weights. Watching film. Going in the cold tub, hot tub. Getting a massage. Extra film. He's just something special. He's something special. You can look at him and say, 'Junior Seau's 38 years old.' But the way he walks around, the way he practices, it looks like he's 28-year-old.
Q: After what happened to you at the end of last season, how much are you looking forward to taking part in things this weekend?
RH: I'm excited. Any time you get your season cut short by an injury, of course you're disappointed, but that's part of the game. That's what I signed up for. I look back on those days and I was just talking to my brother last night about sitting on the couch, watching the AFC Championship and how frustrating that was. Now, I get the opportunity to play this week and I'm excited. You never know how many games you've got left or how many opportunities you're going to have. I'm looking forward to it. I'm going to have fun out there.
Q: It would seem surreal to many people if your game ends on Saturday and your season ends as well. What are your thoughts about that?
RH: I'm not thinking in that negative light. I'm thinking about the positive things. I'm thinking about going out there and executing, making sure that we're prepared in all three phases and making sure I do my job to help this team. Losing hasn't even come into my thought process so I'm not even going to entertain that thought.
Q: Does Bill Belichick have a special connection with the linebackers on this team or any particular group?
RH: I think he has a special connection with every player that he's brought in here. I don't think it's one special group. He brought in his defense and he's the mastermind behind it and those are his guys. But I feel like he has a relationship with the defensive backs as well as his defensive line - the first-round draft choices as well. It's not like he favors one group of guys more so than others, it's just that the strength of out defense is the front seven and that's where games are won and lost - in the trenches.
Q: From a team standpoint, has the run defense been what you had wanted it to be? Do you feel you've made strides in that area?
RH: At times. We've been pretty consistent and other time, against Baltimore and Pittsburgh and some other teams, we weren't very consistent, whether that is from a physical standpoint, missing tackles or gap responsibility, or just assignment, technique-wise, we haven't been very consistent. I played on a defense, we were 1-15, but we had the No. 1 defense in the league and, as a defense, you always strive for that and if we're not there we're not satisfied. That's our goal.