Getting the dirt on Harrison
Love and hate? It's a fine line
FOXBOROUGH -- Plain and simple, when it comes to Rodney Harrison, you're either for him or against him. You either love him or hate him. When you're playing with him, you usually love him. When you're playing against him, you absolutely loathe him.
"Harrison [ticked] me off," Dolphins second-year tight end Randy McMichael said after Sunday's 19-13 overtime win by the Patriots, in which McMichael caught eight passes for 102 yards. "Harrison, Marvin . . . whatever his name is. I can't wait to get some more of that cat, and you can print that. Put that up on his bulletin board. He's a garbage player. He's a great player, but he's a dirty player."
Harrison's response: "I never really cared about that. I've heard people say that I was a dirty player. If I cared about what people said I would have been out of the league.
"I really don't care what [McMichael] says. He's a good player. He's a good young player. He still has some growing up to do. But it really doesn't matter."
Randy, as Michael Jackson once sang, you are not alone. You are a new member to a large club -- one with a lot of former members at Gillette Stadium.
"A couple of times he hit me in the back after the play was over," recalled Damien Woody, who opposed Harrison's San Diego Chargers in 2001 and '02. "I'm like, `You dirty son of a gun. You better hope I don't catch you on a screen.' But you learn to appreciate that when he's on your side."
Said fellow defensive cocaptain Richard Seymour, "He's definitely a guy you want on your football team. If I had to pick any guy to go to war with, he'd definitely be right up there with anybody."
Harrison has gotten a lot of that since he arrived here, guys who once resented him growing in respect for him.
"I've had people come up to me from this team and say, `I thought you were a jerk, but you're really a nice guy, a hard player. I thought you were a dirty player, but you just play the game the way it's supposed to be played,' " Harrison said. "I really don't care what [an opponent] thinks. They're not paying me. I'm not playing for them."
Harrison, 30, is playing like a madman (he shares the team lead in tackles with Tedy Bruschi with 57, and has 2 interceptions, 7 deflections, and 1 fumble recovery), and if he keeps it up, he's got a strong chance of earning his third Pro Bowl selection and the $50,000 bonus that comes with it as part of the six-year, $14 million contract he signed in March. It may come in handy when it comes time to pony up those fines Harrison often incurs for unnecessary roughness. The league penalized him $10,000 for striking Tennessee's Drew Bennett in the back of his head, and warned him for running through the Giants' warmups the following week.
Last year, Harrison was fined a whopping $111,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice and another $12,500 for spearing. He estimates he's been hit for "close to $300,000," and he's believed to be among the most fined players in league history.
"I'm making more money than I thought I'd ever make in my whole life," he said. "I make more money in one year than people make in 20 years of working. So it's not about the money. It's about playing the game the way it is supposed to be played. I play hard, I play 100 miles per hour."
That reckless style, Harrison finds, just might give an opponent pause when venturing into his area -- and give his team an edge. "You never know," he said. "If you mess with somebody, one thing may happen in the heat of the moment where they're looking at you and they're distracted. It might be a caused fumble, it might be a dropped ball. Intimidation. That's what the game is about. Making people become aware of you. And once they start looking and talking about you, that's when you know you're doing your job."
Harrison doesn't appreciate opponents creating an uncomfortable work environment. Do so, and he'll go to work on you, as he did with McMichael.
"He thought I tried to twist his ankle or something like that," Harrison said. "I didn't. If I was trying to hurt the guy he would know it. Look at him. When he makes a catch he gets up and he does his little dance, so when we get a chance we're going to make him pay. We're going to try to rip his head off."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.