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He's still a big hit

Safety Harrison puts Super season in rearview mirror

FOXBOROUGH -- Some words of warning to the Patriots' receiving corps: Watch out. Words of caution, too, for the running backs, tight ends, and anyone wearing a white jersey who happens to stray into Rodney Harrison's way: Keep your head on a swivel.

If anyone thinks Harrison is about to rest on his laurels after finally winning his first Super Bowl ring, then consider the comments the veteran strong safety made yesterday after the first day of training camp at Gillette Stadium.

On winning the Super Bowl: "We don't care about last year. No one cares about last year. It's all about this year. It's all about, `What are we going to do this year?' "

On whether it is more of a psychological challenge to get emotionally recharged for a repeat: "Not for me. My job is to come out here and play at the highest level. No one cares about the Super Bowl. I mean, you guys keep bringing it up, but we forgot about it. I mean, that's last year. We've got to get focused for this year."

On why the team must be focused in training camp: "You have to, because you look at some of those teams who have won previous Super Bowls, they come back the next year and they don't make the playoffs and they're 7-9 and 4-12 -- terrible records. So, really, no one cares about what you've done last year. It's all about this year and it's all about coming out and proving yourself once again."

It was only the first day of camp -- a leisurely affair on a warm summer day attended by some 5,000 adoring fans who wildly cheered the Patriots' every move -- but Harrison, who signed with the Patriots last year after nine seasons in San Diego, was already smoldering with game-day intensity.

His Super Bowl ring? Where is it?

"Gone," Harrison snapped. Then, to emphasize his point, he removed his gloves, held up his bare hands, and fanned out his fingers. "Look, this is what I walk around with -- my wedding ring, that's it.

"The other ring? It's gone. I'm trying to get another one. The rest doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what we did last year, it really doesn't. We're in training camp for this year."

If Harrison goes after his second ring with the same zeal as he did the first, when he showed up at camp a year ago and hit anything and anyone that moved, then someone's likely to pay the toll.

After toiling in San Diego, where he was a two-time All-Pro, Harrison didn't take long to make an impression on his new teammates last year.

"You know what? He was just like Lawyer [Milloy]," said Ty Law. "Watching him fit in, he reminded me so much of Lawyer. I was like, `Man, to have both of those guys in the same defensive backfield at the same time . . .' I'd have to be thinking about my own health because both those guys just come in and hit anything. They just played a similar style of ball.

"I mean, he fit in well -- great personality, great leader," Law added. "He was eager to win. We teased him a little bit about being in San Diego, but he gave it all he had no matter what, even in the years he didn't make the playoffs and went through a 1-15 season. He had a lot of pride in what he does and I respect that."

Richard Seymour recalled one instance when Harrison won his respect and admiration. "For me, I think it happened when he was in mini-camp or something," Seymour said. "He and Fred [McCrary] came from San Diego together and he got in a little scuffle with Fred, so it kind of set the tone. It was like, `Well, he ain't taking any prisoners.' "

At no time, however, did Harrison ever waste a nanosecond in his first camp in Foxborough daydreaming about winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots, who had won it all in 2001 but failed to make the playoffs in 2002 after going 9-7.

"Didn't even think about it," he said. "I'd be lying if I told you I had, but I just wanted to come out here and I just wanted to play football. I didn't think about a championship. I just wanted to fit in and do my part, whatever my part was. I knew they had been to the Super Bowl, but they didn't even make the playoffs the year after that, so I wasn't thinking about no championship or anything like that."

All he wanted, really, was to make an impression.

"I mean, I want to do that now," he said. "You always want to make an impression and that's just part of the game. You got to make a statement. You got to show people you can still play and you got to do it day-in and day-out."

Even if it means going after a teammate on the field? "Doesn't matter," Harrison said. "We're teammates and everything, but we're still competing against one another. At the end of the day, we'll hug each other in the locker room. But when we're out here, if you're not wearing the same blue jersey I am, you're my teammate but you're my enemy in the same breath. That's how it is."

The offseason was good to Harrison. The right arm he broke in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl has since healed. Five days after the Super Bowl, Harrison's wife, Erika, gave birth to their first child, a son, Christian.

Life is good.

But now that training camp is here, Harrison is ready to don his hard hat and go to work.

And that can only mean one thing: Someone's going to be sore in the morning.

"He didn't hit anyone today," Law said. "But I can assure you that Rodney Harrison will hit someone tomorrow."

All you guys in white jerseys, consider yourself warned.

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