Rodney Harrison won two Super Bowl rings as a safety on the New England Patriots. Now part of the NBC Sports team, Harrison joins Chris Gasper (@cgasper) to give his observations about his former team's chances in Super Bowl LII. The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy then shares his thoughts on the upcoming game, as he and Chris have some news about Rob Gronkowski's injury status. (Hint: Gronk wants to play!)
On working for NBC on the Sunday Night Football crew:
Chris Gasper: I always knew you were going to do this.
Rodney Harrison: I never did, though. I thought I was going to coach.
Chris Gasper: How do you enjoy this side of the game?
Rodney Harrison: I enjoy working with Dan Patrick — he’s taught me so much — and Coach [Tony] Dungy. Everyone says, “I’m surprised you and Dungy, you get along so well.” And some people will act like we don’t like each other. It’s tremendous, man, just the opportunity to hang out there. There’s Al Michaels, he’s like a legend. You know, Cris Collinsworth, and then a little guy like me from Markham, Illinois to be right here is just — it’s all God, man.
On what the Patriots need to do defensively in Super Bowl LII:
Chris Gasper: When you look at this Patriots defense, obviously the first four games of the year they struggled, they busted coverages. How concerned are you against this Philadelphia Eagles offense - all the RPOs (run-pass options) and the decisions they’re going to have to make quickly - that the secondary can prevent the big plays, that the Vikings could not?
Rodney Harrison: I think the most important thing for the Patriots defense is to keep it simple. Don’t try a lot of exotic things. You need to keep it simple. I think the Patriots - unlike a lot of other team’s defenses - they’re going to play a lot of tight man-to-man coverage. Those corners, they’re going to come down and jam those guys so when he’s faking, there’s not that easy little lane where [Nick] Foles can complete an easy pass. I think Belichick will get after these guys and force Foles to beat them up the field.
"I think the most important thing for the Patriots defense is to keep it simple. Don’t try a lot of exotic things. You need to keep it simple."Rodney Harrison
On the Patriots' long run of success:
Chris Gasper: Does it blow you away that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are still doing this? The last time they faced the Eagles (in the Super Bowl, 2005), you were on the team. You got a Super Bowl ring there, you clinched the thing with the interception. All these years later, they’re still doing this?
Rodney Harrison: The only thing that surprises me is - not the physical ability to do it - probably the mental ability. This is the most impressive thing about Tom Brady - to be able to keep that mental focus for all those years. To keep that intensity, to keep that training level for such a long time is really remarkable because you wake up sometimes and you look at your bank account and (you think), “OK, I’m financially set, my wife wants me to retire, I’m just going to retire.” But he keeps going and it’s just amazing because it’s not just physical talent. You have to dig deep in your heart and your mind to try and play, and Tom’s been doing it for a long time.
Chris Gasper: Do you still feel that connection to the Patriots?
Rodney Harrison: I do, and I’m fortunate ... I’ve been working for NBC for nine years and every third year, we’re covering the Patriots. (We covered the Super Bowl against) Seattle, we did it in Indianapolis and now it’s just like, wow man I can’t believe they’re still doing it!
On where the idea that the Patriots get preferential treatment from referees comes from:
Rodney Harrison: It’s dumb. Everyone hates us. I’m serious, everybody hates us. Like, everywhere I go people hate us, they talk. You know, I walk into the gym after the Falcons game and people go, “Ahh look at them!” When you’re a Patriot, you’re just an enemy with everyone else. It’s the Patriots and it’s everyone else, because everyone’s trying to be like the Patriots.
"When you’re a Patriot, you’re just an enemy with everyone else. It’s the Patriots and it’s everyone else, because everyone’s trying to be like the Patriots."Rodney Harrison
On the Patriots being the “good guys” in Minnesota:
Chris Gasper: Back in New England, everyone looks at the Patriots as obviously the favorite team there, but they assume everyone outside of New England hates the Patriots. We’ve seen the shirts: “They hate us cause they ain’t us,” “Patriots vs. Everybody.” That’s not the case here.
Dan Shaughnessy: Picture if the World Series were held at a neutral site and it were in Boston. And the Yankees just kicked the Red Sox' ass to make it to the World Series to play the Pirates - all of Boston would be Pirates fans … It makes perfect sense, I’m surprised we didn’t anticipate it, it is rampant. They all love the Patriots here. Not sure how it translates on game day if the Eagles fans show up and represent. Around the country, there is great Patriot fatigue. In Minneapolis, there’s not.
"They all love the Patriots here (in Minneapolis). Not sure how it translates on game day if the Eagles fans show up and represent. Around the country, there is great Patriots fatigue. In Minneapolis, there’s not."Dan Shaughnessy