Patriots’ safety Harrison announces retirement
AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) ” Two-time Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison announced his retirement on Wednesday, saying he is through hitting quarterbacks after a 15-year career for the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers.
“I’m done,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “And I’m very much at peace with that. Football has been good to me; I worked hard and I played hard.”
The 36-year-old Harrison holds the NFL record for defensive backs with 30 1/2 sacks; he also has 34 interceptions, making him the only player to have at least 30 of each. But the numbers only tell part of the story about a player who had a reputation as one of the hardest hitters in the league ” and one of the dirtiest, too.
“People have called me a dirty player. I’m a very passionate player,” Harrison said. “I also understand that this is not volleyball. This is a very violent, physical game, and if you hit someone in the mouth, they’re not going to be your friend. That’s what the game of football is.”
Harrison’s frank speaking can be expected to serve him well in his broadcast career. Asked about his next step, he referred to an NBC call scheduled for later Wednesday at which the network has said it will announce its “talent” for this season’s NFL broadcasts.
Harrison worked for NBC in its Super Bowl coverage last year.
Harrison said his passion was often misinterpreted as cheap shots, but it was part of his philosophy to “play every play like it’s my last play.”
“That was the right formula ” the Harrison formula,” Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said on Tuesday.
New England linebacker Pierre Woods said Harrison always felt he was fighting against the league’s tendency to protect quarterbacks.
“He feels like the league is getting soft,” Woods said. “If you can’t hit the quarterback, what are you doing out there?”
Harrison won two Super Bowls with the Patriots but missed the last 10 games last season after tearing a muscle in his right thigh. Injuries, along with a four-game suspension in 2007 for using a banned substance, limited him to 31 games over the last four seasons.
“I always wanted to prove to everyone that I could come back, but I really didn’t have that fire anymore,” he said.
Although he was unapologetic about his multiple fines ” more than $200,000 over his career ” and a one-game suspension in 2002 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice, Harrison did call the drug suspension “a huge mistake.” He admitted obtaining human growth hormone, and has said it was to speed his recovery from an injury.
“I had so much pride about trying to do things right,” he said. “I made such a huge mistake in that situation and disappointed so many people, including myself. When I made that mistake, I wanted other guys and kids to learn from that.”
Harrison started out his call by joking that he had signed a two-year deal with the Patriots with the promise that he didn’t have to report until September.
After a pause, he ‘fessed up, and he later added that there was no chance of a Brett Favre-like reversal.
“I respect people in the National Football League too much not to put them on this joyride,” he said. “I don’t want guys on my team or guys I played with to have to answer questions about Rodney Harrison’s return. When I made my decision to retire, I made my decision to retire. … I’m done.”