FOXBOROUGH - The stunning suspension of Patriots safety Rodney Harrison by the NFL for admitting that he used a banned substance has repercussions for the team beyond his four-week absence. It calls into question whether other players in the New England locker room are harboring similar secrets.
Few would have fingered Harrison, a model teammate and revered team leader, as a culprit before news of his suspension broke last Friday evening. When asked yesterday whether he could be confident that Harrison's use of a banned substance - reportedly human growth hormone - was an isolated incident, Patriots coach Bill Belichick intimated that it was not something he could say with certainty.
"I don't have any knowledge," Belichick said before stopping short. "I don't have any more knowledge of it than anybody else does. However, the league monitors and does those things. It's all, it's all outside of the team. We all know what the policies and the procedures are. I don't think there is any need for me to go through them. That's a matter of record."
Belichick did say that the team talks to players about a number of subjects and hinted that the use prohibited substances was one of them.
"I would just say that we talk to players about everything that we feel is important," said Belichick. "That covers a lot of things. You know the situation. You know the situation on this as well as I do. What the league is and what their comments are, that's what they are. I'm not going to speak for the league."
One reason players may use HGH is that it's basically undetectable. HGH is secreted naturally by the body, but production diminishes with age. In order to pick up on unusual HGH levels in a player's system, blood testing would need to be conducted, unlike steroids, which can be detected through urine samples.
Belichick was asked if he thought the league should introduce blood testing.
"I'm just trying to coach this team and get ready for the Jets," he said. "I don't really have any comment on what the league policies are, what their rules are or what their deal is. They got people doing that. I'm sure they know a lot more about it than I do. We'll leave that to them and the people who make those decisions."
Belichick wouldn't elaborate on when exactly he became aware of Harrison's admission to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, but his comments did make it clear that the team will welcome Harrison back when his suspension is over.
"Rodney's situation came up last week," said Belichick. "Obviously, it's unfortunate, and we'll see him when he comes back in four weeks."
Few Patriots players were willing to talk about Harrison's suspension and those who did stayed on message.
"We're not talking about Rodney. We're not talking about Rodney," said linebacker Junior Seau, who was Harrison's teammate for nine seasons in San Diego and has been for the last two with the Patriots. "We're talking about the Jets and our teammates that are in the locker room."
The 38-year-old Seau, who is in his 18th season, was asked if the temptation to try something to prolong an NFL career gets greater as that career reaches its final stages.
"I don't know what you're talking about," replied Seau. "I just come out and work every day."
These are not the types of questions that any professional athlete wants to be faced with. But Harrison's teammates are supporting him.
"All I can say about the Rodney situation is that we love him, we care about him, we hope that everything goes well for him," said safety James Sanders. "But other than that, I'll let you talk to him or Bill about those questions."