10.22.10 - Houston ChronicleUnique spin on NFL flap Harrison's violent past gives views credibility By DAVID BARRON Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
We have a winner in next year’s Sports Emmy category for Best Irony: Rodney Harrison, one of the NFL’s most feared tacklers during his career with the Chargers and Patriots, speaking out about violent play in the NFL.
Harrison’s assertion on last Sunday’s Football Night in America that suspensions, not fines, were the key to cleaning up rough play was the opening salvo in what has become a torrent of rhetoric, including some remarkably apocalyptic statements from ESPN analysts Matt Millen and Mark Schlereth on how enforcing the rules will be The End of Football As We Now Know It.
Harrison, who is in his second season on NBC, sounds amazed at the impact his words had in framing the issue.
“My goal was to speak about football,” he said. “I didn’t realize the impact you could have outside the arena. But I have a platform now, and people will listen, and it’s my job to make a difference and to bring things forward in a positive light.
“Trust me, I’m a shy person. I don’t like being out there. But now, it’s my job, and it’s my responsibility talk about these things. And I think I have some credibility when it comes to this subject.”
As Harrison watched last Sunday’s games with NBC colleagues Dan Patrick and Tony Dungy, he said it scared him to see Joshua Cribbs of the Browns and DeSean Jackson of the Eagles on the ground after sustaining the type of big hit that he once handed out — and was fined for — as a matter of routine.
“I guarantee you that you will see a difference this weekend,” he said. “The threat of suspension will change everything.”
Harrison, once again, will have the first word Sunday night on how the league’s heightened emphasis on enforcing its rules against unnecessary roughness played out during Week 7.
At a time when, frankly, Sunday studio shows have lost some of their luster amid the weeklong barrage of football programs on ESPN and NFL Network, it should be interesting to see if he once again plays a role in driving the conversation. And it will be really interesting to see if the likes of Millen and Schlereth are back in apocalyptic mode next week.