Rodney Harrison says "I just want these guys to be protected"

NBC’s Rodney Harrison, who won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and played before that with the Chargers as part of a 15-year NFL career, helped shine a light on the value of suspensions to getting helmet-to-helmet hits out of the game with his comments during this week’s Football Night in America, Sunday Night Football, and in various videos available at

Harrison was quoted extensively by numerous media outlets throughout the day on Monday, and ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Monday night that Harrison’s perspective directly influenced Commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision to take the matter seriously after multiple big hits during the Week Six games.

In a telephone interview conduct on Tuesday morning, Harrison shrugged at the attention.

“It’s just a topic I felt strongly about,” Harrison said.  As to the reaction to his comments, he said that “it did surprise me a little bit, because this has been going on for years and no one has made a big deal about it.”

Harrison said that he’s troubled by the intensity of many of the hits exchanged by today’s players.  “I’m so happy I’m not playing anymore,” he said.  “If I’m cringing from some of these hits, what does that tell you?”

I asked him to reconcile his own playing style, which resulted in fines and ultimately a one-game suspension, with his concerns for player safety.  Harrison said that, during his career, “I was in gladiator mode because that’s all I was taught.”

He added that there was no emphasis in his playing days on the consequences of brain injury.  “I’ve had hundreds of concussions,” he said.  “What would they tell me?  ‘Take two Advil and get back in there.'”

Though he seems fine despite the concussions, Harrison said that he still gets headaches, especially when feeling overwhelmed.  He also experiences sensitivity to light, most often when in the sun for extended periods of time.  “I have effects from it, no question,” he said. 

Harrison explained that he routinely played after suffering concussions.  “I didn’t think about it because no one really talked about concussions.” he said.  “They’d help me off the field and I’d be back four or five plays later.” 

Harrison said he’d often experience headaches until Tuesday night after a game, taking Advil for the pain and drinking Sprite to reduce the nausea.  “You can ask my wife,” he said.  “She saw what I went through.  I never let anyone else know.”

He said that, when his son wants to see highlights of Harrison’s playing career, “I get scared even watching myself.  I just want those guys to be protected.”

Harrison now believes that the focus on dealing with players who have had concussions should include increased efforts to prevent them from getting concussions in the first place.  And he agrees with the league’s decision to suspend players for flagrant helmet-to-helmet hits on a one-strike basis, reiterating his position that players gain notoriety (and thus large contracts) by being known either as a playmaker or as a tough guy. 

“No one gets known for being a solid form tackler,” he said. 

Harrison believes that suspensions — and the threat of suspensions — will get the message across.  “Fines are a cost of doing business,” Harrison said, “but when a guy loses a game check and isn’t available for his team, that hurts.”

He explained that it’s a simple matter of forcing the players adjust to the new emphasis.  “We adjust to everything,” Harrison said.  “Coaches, weather, planes, food.  That’s what football is about.  It’s about making adjustments.  Football players adjust.”

Harrison believes that the “smart coaches” immediately will begin to communicate the message to their players, telling them that the team can’t afford to have them be suspended and repeatedly showing them video of proper and improper hitting techniques. 

Harrison has yet to get any flak from current or former NFL players, but he won’t be troubled if he does.  “I’ll tell them, ‘Don’t worry about what I say,'” he said.  “I’m trying to protect players.  I don’t give a damn who likes it or not.”

But not everyone is leaving him alone about it.  At the gym this week, a football fan approached and suggested that Harrison was going too far with his position on the issue. 

“I told him, ‘If your son was DeSean Jackson, would you be saying that?'”

47 responses to “Rodney Harrison says "I just want these guys to be protected"

  1. I’ve seen Harrison play throughout the years and even he didn’t seem to intentionally go headhunting (he usually dove for the knees). Amazingly, i can only remember that hit on Rice’s head as the only exception.

  2. “I’ve had hundreds of concussions,” he said.
    Yeah, right!!! If he had hundreds of concussions like he claims, he wouldn’t be able to open up his big mouth. No possible way!!! Why is it that Steve Young had between 7 and 9 and had to retire? Harrison wouldn’t be walking and talking today if that was the case.

  3. I know people are going to jump on Harrison with allegations of being a dirty player, but he is a damn good commentator. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if he took over for either Al or Chris (or both, preferably 🙂 ) on Sunday Night Football.

  4. @CJ Spiller
    Maybe it’s all the concussions he’s had in the past that made him say something so foolish

  5. Ill start by stating that I am a Patriots fan…..but the way Harrison played always bothered me. I respect tough players who want to win, and he was certainly that. It wasnt so much his hits to the helmet (I actually dont remember any) but the fact that we would crash into the pile late on every play that drove me crazy.
    That being said, I agree with him 100% on this.

  6. “Queue the Patriots/Harrison is dirty in 3…2…1…”
    I’m not a hypocrite, I think the game of football is a violent game, and the guys getting paid millions to play it, do so at their own risk… They know what they’re getting into… So the fact that I hate the Patriots doesn’t change my opinion on any of that.
    I hated Harrison when he played, but I won’t say I wouldn’t take him on my team in a second. It does seem hypocritical to me though, that Harrison talks so much about these guys being suspended… He points to himself having concussions… What about the guys he went headhunting for? I think even if he HAD known more about concussions when he played, chances are he wouldn’t care about “safety” if he planted a guy and forced a fumble.

  7. This all coming from one of the dirtiest players ever… and a convicted Steroid User!!! It blows me away that hes involved in football at any level.

  8. “I’m trying to protect players. I don’t give a damn who likes it or not.”
    What’s the difference? He was hated as a player and the other players rarely voted him to the Pro Bowl and consistently voted in less deserving players ahead of him. Why should he care now? It’s what makes him good at his job. If NBC wanted fluff, they wouldn’t have hired him.

  9. If the NFL is going to completely take away hard-hitting from the chest up, then the defense has to be thrown a bone or two.
    Here’s how I see it:
    1) No more illegal contact penalties beyond five yards.
    2) Defensive and offensive pass interference penalties should both be 15 yards. In the case of the defense, pass interference should only be 15 yards, no matter how far down the field the infraction occurred.
    If defenders are not allowed to make big hits in the open field on offensive players, then defenders should not be penalized as harshly for the ticky-tack (or deliberate) grabbing, pushing, and handfighting that most assuredly does not lead to serious injury. I’m all for protecting players from violent injuries, but if all the rules are skewed in the favor of offenses, defenses will continue to be left with precious little recourse with which to counteract them.
    Just my two cents.

  10. Also, how come we are able to review and change this on the fly in the middle of the season but we can’t do anything about a catch rule that never gets called the same way from team to team or week to week?

  11. I had a couple of concussions playing football when I was younger, but I didn’t realize I suffered them at the time since I never lost consciousness. Harrison is right because the effects of a concussion are not pleasant at all. Chronic migraines primarily drove me out of the game, and fortunately, they disappeared since I stopped playing.
    A concerted effort to get players to tackle correctly is a great thing physically and strategically. Obviously, the health issue is on the forefront, but also, how often has a big play resulted from a collision by a defender that did not bring the ball-carrier down? Laron Landry is a big hitter (but not a head-hunter IMO) having a career year, but last year he was constantly harped on for surrendering big plays because he didn’t wrap up and maintain correct tackling technique.
    I think this will make teams better.

  12. Never really liked Harrison (mainly when he joined the Pats) BUT I can respect his point of view. He’s right, what if that was your child ???
    As a recent player himself, who did throw a bunch of hits of his own, it’s interesting to hear his view. Take it or leave it, like him or hate him, at least respect the point of view of a person who actually has “hands on” experience with this issue, as well as the varied outcomes it presents … Not everyone heals the same or shows the same effects in the same time period. 100 concussions is probably going a little overboard but I’m quite sure he had more than a few and that is a scary thought …
    I’m with you on this one Harrison, being a Eagles fan, can’t think of agreeing with a former Pat but, this issue is a serious one. When the Eagles lost Andre Waters (Suicide), reports had it that his brain was bad shape, he used to hit like a tank, “Dirty Waters” they called him, hit hard as hell (and yes not always legal). Who’s to say he might not be around today if concussions were more of a “known and cared for” issue back then.
    Who knows how much brain damage is still out there in current and retired players. Scary thought !!!

  13. Leave it to Rodney, the dirtiest scumbag to play the game, to feel bad for players and look out for their safety! Whos next, Chuck Cecil???

  14. So says the player who in 2008, NFL head coaches labeled the dirtiest player in the league. Now, he has sat next to Dungy for a few weeks, and all of the sudden he is trying to protect the players. Yeah, I’m sure the players care what he says.

  15. @ CJ Spiller
    Perhaps when Harrison looks back at all the time he sustained (giving and taking) a hit and felt a little dazed, it added up to hundreds of times. Maybe they were very mild but they were concussions.

  16. @CJ Spiller – look up the definition for a concussion. the medical description. hell even just read the wiki. not all concussions are the same. the kind you get when you are a QB and LB’s/DE’s are trying to get you on the ground (and land on you in the effort) are a bit more brain jarring. Steve Young…poor guy, I feel like he’s gonna have alzheimer’s by the time he’s 50.

  17. So nice to see Harrison get all warm and fuzzy in his old age and now that he’s in the media he can come across as such a nice guy. Not sure why Peter King kisses this guys butt but Rodney Harrison was one of the dirtiest players when he played and continually crossed the line.

  18. ‘If your son was DeSean Jackson, would you be saying that?
    YES. He is grown man. If you don’t want the risk, don’t play. No onoe has a gun to these guys heads to play football. It is a 100% voluntary activity and every player knows the risks.
    Harrison is a hypocrite of epic proportions!

  19. one thing i completely agree w is the leadin w helmet meriweather.. that was uncalled for n clear he was leadin w head against defenseless reciever.. and he needs 2 be suspended..but big hits IS football. always has been to change it might as well turn into flag football.. everyone knows the danger and what there gettin into and they get paid huge for it. i love the big hits as a fan. deshaun jax hit was awesome but at the same time unfortunate. helmet 2 helmet hits def cause for suspension but legal huge hits is what made the nfl the nfl and to change it changes everythin and to make it “safe” will lessen the value bec big plays n hits r what fans want to see.. injuries will happen every game its part of sport. no need to change it bec of a bad weekend.

  20. CJ SPILLER says:
    October 19, 2010 2:39 PM
    “I’ve had hundreds of concussions,” he said.
    ____________________ ____________
    Yeah, right!!! If he had hundreds of concussions like he claims, he wouldn’t be able to open up his big mouth. No possible way!!! Why is it that Steve Young had between 7 and 9 and had to retire? Harrison wouldn’t be walking and talking today if that was the case
    well for one, it depends on the concussion
    you could be concussed to the point where that one hit will put you out for the year
    where i could be concussed and be able to play the next day
    some could be concussed and never be right ever again after just ONE HIT
    Everyone’s brains react to things differently, this is Grade 10 Science/Biology

  21. Harrison said that, during his career, “I was in gladiator mode because that’s all I was taught.”
    Funny that other players weren’t “taught” to play dirty and cheat in all the myriad ways you did, Rodney. Nice job blaming your reckless play on your “teachers”.
    Now, how about all the illegal clutching and grabbing that you did on the ref’s blind side – were you taught that, or did you figure it out on your own? And who “taught” you to juice?
    No worries – you will always be fondly remembered for one thing: Failing to defend against David Tyree’s “greatest catch ever”.

  22. ps.. thinkin about makin a tackle as a def player slows them down instantly.. which makes them vunerable to gettin blasted on a block or the runner himself.. and now ur teachin 2 tackle below..blow out knees, knee to head concussion.. yeah ur helpin out 1 defenseless reciever but leavin all 11 def players vunerable to slowin down thinkin about fines and hurtin team and in hurt can rly cause a big collusion. from the fast speeded reciever to the slowed down thinkin about what to do defender.. goodell, i love what ur doin what players but ur deffffff over protecting players and turnin the league to shit. watch im tellin u if these bullshit penaltys keep comin and fine n suspended players for a”big” hit ill let u i wont be watchin football as much 5 yrs from now.

  23. Once a guy says hes had hundreds of concussions, I know hes either a liar, or he really is that stupid to think that.
    In Harrisons case I truly believe that it is both.
    Also, Shane Conlon was a really great form tackler.

  24. The league feels confident in ther officials as to the point no player or coach can say anthing about them or get fined. They are on the field at real time and if they feel the play does not warrant a flag then the league should go by there judgement. No, they want to look at every angle at very slow speed over and over and then make there decesion on the play. Tthe game is played at high speed not slow speed so let the officials on the field make the call. No fan or player wants anyone to get a head injury. They go to the suspension and you are tarketing one side on the ball game, the defense. the leagues has taken away there play with rule after rule for the offense. How many plays won’t be made with thought of no pay for game. Gee how about better equipment?

  25. Good for Harrison. You get a sense that current players aren’t going to want to say anything about this because they don’t want to antagonize coaches or make other players think they’ve gone soft. But it does seem like more and more former players, including defenders, are expressing concerns about the hits and offering constructive solutions for dealing with the issue. It looks like we’re at a tipping point.

  26. I think what rodney forgets is that fans don’t really care about players. We care about the game and who’s wearing the jersey on Sunday. I’m happy they get paid all this money cause they deserve it for the unique talent and the risk they undertake.
    Same sentiment when it comes to fans no longer caring about steriod policy. Just like the players want, it’s a business and it’s entertainment just like going to watch deniro in a movie. Sure it’s sad that a small % of players experience these post career traumas but that’s the risk of playing football. Are we really supposed to believe the league cares about players when they had to be exposed for not giving a extra NICKLE to the legends who made this game great?
    If it’s too much fall back on your college education and come to the real world. Unfortunately headaches and naseau are also prevelant there as well. i’m not afraid to tell you I have to take advil and drink sprite almost every other day. PLEASE!

  27. Dirty player tries to make good….sorry Rodney, we all still remember what a scumbag you are.

  28. “If I’m cringing from some of these hits, what does that tell you?”
    That when you played, you loved it when other players cringed from your hits.
    Why do players and coaches start saying these things AFTER their career is over? Harrision loved to hit and now he wants to the hits to stop. He never listened when he played, so why does he expect the current players to listen?
    And Dungy, I love and respect the man, but why wasn’t he verbal about the swearing and player behavior when he was a coach–not just to his team but the league?
    Yeah, I know they were “in” the culture of football and had a job to do, but complaining about things after the fact….

  29. I would be willing to bet Steve Young had more than 7-9 concussions. Its just that what we regard as a concussion today is not the same as when he played. It used be just getting your bell run, or a hard hit. The 7-9 documented concussions were all probably blacked out concussions or could barely walk/talk concussions.

  30. How does former NFL star and NBC analyst Rodney Harrison wash down his steroids?
    With the lemon-lime soda every steroid abuser loves, Sprite.
    “I love Sprite. It really calms my nausea after downing a dose of nandrolone. Now I’m huge and feel like I’m 30 again. Thanks nandrolone! I mean, Sprite!”
    “Only my wife knew what I was going through, I didn’t want anyone else to know. So she’d run to the store and get a 2-liter bottle of Sprite for me. The nausea was gone and nobody had any idea I was chock full of…um, getting hit too hard in yesterday’s game.”

  31. @ kosarsmyidol:
    I like Harrison as a commentator up to this point. Now he’s just a freakin’ kite blowing with the wind.
    If he isn’t in the top 3 of guys with the most unsportsmanlike conduct and/or personal fouls called against him, I’d be shocked.

  32. I never in my life though Rodney was a stone-cold hypocrite or would claim he wasn’t responsible for his own actions because it was what “he was taught.” I admired him becuase he was always appeared to be honest, straightforward and consistent. I made an enormous mistake in judgment about his character.
    The media is like politics in that it sooner or later destroys even the best of men who enter the profession.

  33. I’m against anything that puts more in the hands of the referees. They have entirely too much sway over the outcome of a game as it is.
    Everything is getting way overmanaged in this game…may be on CFT more than PFT if this trend continues.

  34. I agree with the poster who mentioned Antione Winfield. I think he may be one of the best tacklers in the NFL. Not one of the biggest hitters though. I have watched him since he started playing for the Vikings and can’t recall 1 concussion that he has caused. I could be off in this though.
    To the poster who mentioned the comparison of Steve Young to Rodney Harrison you should realize that I am sure the concussions for Young knocked him out cold. I am sure the ones Harrison is referring to are much more minor then those. While they are more minor, they are still a very serious problem.

  35. Funny Courtland Finnegan Sr. would even jump into this argument being he was the epitomy of dirty in his heyday.

  36. # CraigMaitland21 says: October 19, 2010 2:58 PM
    This all coming from one of the dirtiest players ever… and a convicted Steroid User!!! It blows me away that hes involved in football at any level.
    Steroids? Really? When did that happen?
    Oh you mean HGH, which HE had to confess to on his own because there is no test for it the NFL Union will allow NOR is it a steroid? Ignorance, it’s what’s for dinner. If you are going to trash a player for something at least be correct.
    Yes sometimes Rodney played past the echo of the whistle and I didn’t like that part…but he was very smart & a playmaker in NE and their secondary suffered when he wasn’t there. I didn’t think he was dirty even before he was a Patriot though he did trash talk a lot.
    I am a bit surprised he would take that stance.

  37. Just a reminder for some of you idiots. “I don’t give a damn who likes it or not”. Way to go Rodney!

  38. “I told him, ‘If your son was DeSean Jackson, would you be saying that?'”
    Says the League’s former dirtiest player

  39. I respect Rodney’s opinion, but not on this issue. Opinions change from when you are playing to when when you are not. I believe if he was still playing, his opinion today would be that of James Harrison’s. It’s a different world through the helmet. A big hit has the potential to change a game more than someone’s life. I believe Roger Goodell should wear helmet and shoulder pads for every fine he dishes out. They are weapons, not defensive protection.

  40. SteelCurtnDee says:
    October 19, 2010 2:53 PM
    It does seem hypocritical to me though, that Harrison talks so much about these guys being suspended… He points to himself having concussions… What about the guys he went headhunting for? I think even if he HAD known more about concussions when he played, chances are he wouldn’t care about “safety” if he planted a guy and forced a fumble.

    He addressed that himself. He openly admitted that it didn’t occur to him. In fact, I doubt any player actively thinks about safety. But that’s why the league needs to step up and address the issue for the players. Players are not worried about getting hit and ending up with a concussion; they’re worried about making the big hit to force a turnover or making the catch for a TD to win the game. This is the same for all players. They throw their bodies around with reckless abandon for the sake of winning a ball game. Let the league officials deal with safety.

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