Former New England Patriots’ safety Rodney Harrison spoke with the media earlier this week regarding the Pats upcoming contest with the Colts. From Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, here is what he had to say:
On Bill Belichick:
"“He’s treating this like it’s a playoff game because it’s a very difficult place [to play]. [The Colts] play with a different speed when they’re on that turf, and it’s just something about the fans and just how excited they get when they’re playing against Belichick and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. I wanted to have a conversation with Bill, and he declined to have a conversation with me. So I know how important this game is, because he’s really focused on this game.”"
On Rob Gronkowski returning from torn ACL:
"That’s been something that’s really impressed me because I’ve gone through the same injury and it took me two years to really feel comfortable. Now you see him, he’s not just lining up as a tight end, he’s lining out as a wide receiver and across the middle, he’s not afraid to go across the middle. A lot of times I was afraid with guys falling around my knee. I’m protecting my knee. But you don’t see that with Rob. No sense of hesitancy. Just out there playing football, he looks so comfortable. And one thing, too, I notice about Rob is just his football maturity. He’s playing smarter, the way he’s running his routes. Before he solely just depended on athleticism. Now he’s learning the game of football. He knows how to set guys up in his route run and he’s pushing off and he’s being a good veteran player. And that’s what you expect. He’s getting better. And he’s learning how to play football and it’s scary, because a lot of football to be played.”"
On how he would try to cover Gronkowski:
"“It really wouldn’t be any different than what I did with Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates and Shannon Sharpe, all the great guys I had to cover throughout my career. I would just get up and jam them and press them. But I was 220, 225 pounds. I could run with most of those tight ends. And it was just something that I embraced. I loved going against those tight ends and even back when I first came in the league, when Tony Gonzalez came to the league they used him as a tight end but also used him out wide like they do with Jimmy Graham and the rest of the guys. It was pretty scary — get a guy 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, can run, jump, do all those different things but it comes down to being able to match up. You get guys like Earl Thomas, he’s a terrific young safety, but he’s [5-10] and he can’t match up with these big 6-5, 6-4 guys. So that’s why I still place a premium on safeties that can go up there and match up.”"
Harrison’s comments on Gronk really jumped out at me. Harrison is one of the toughest players I can remember playing, so for him to hand out praise like that to the big tight end? That’s impressive. Gronkowski is not generally regarded as one of the toughest players in the league; mentally or physically, and that is really a shame.
Not only has Gronk come back from two very serious injuries, but he has come back better than ever. He could have given up after tearing his ACL, and decided all of that rehab work wasn’t really worth it. But he went in there every day to get better, refusing to give up. And now, he is reaping the rewards.
Let’s give the big man some credit.