Patriots new LB James Harrison: Jerk, spy or double agent?

Published: 12/30/2017 4:38:16 PM
Modified: 11/12/2008 3:10:12 PM
Screen-Shot-2017-12-30-at-4-25-36-PM.pngPhoto: Couresty New England Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — According to Google, people who search the Internet for James Harrison also look up Clay Matthews, Troy Polamalu, Methuselah and Betty White. Harrison is old. He entered the NFL before Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was born. Harrison is old.
Harrison is so old in fact that the institutional memory of his time with the Steelers predates record keeping. Hence, after 14 seasons with Pittsburgh, the team suddenly remembered that Harrison might be some kind of a jerk. This led the Steelers to begrudgingly cut him last week, a move they totally didn’t want to make as evidenced by the 40 crucial snaps they gave Harrison (in total) for Weeks 1-15.
Unfortunately, his former teammates told Pittsburgh reporters, Harrison forced the organization’s hand by sleeping during team meetings and pouting over his lack of playing time. Sometimes when Harrison was inactive for games, he would leave the stadium (just like many Patriots players do when they’re inactive for games). Sometimes he would bail on meetings altogether, thereby missing team-mandated naps.
We can only assume that Harrison also put empty milk containers back in the fridge, picked everything but raisins out of the trail mix and refused to participate in Secret Santa. Clearly, it’s the type of behavior a team can only tolerate for four months before telling a guy to hit the streets. One must wonder if he has ever spoken to Dennis Eckersley in an unkind manner. What matters now is that after months of telling Harrison they would totally have a big, super-important, work-intensive role for him, the Steelers let him go, and in the splashiest most mind-bending plot twist of 2009, Harrison now plays for the New England Patriots.
Earlier this week, some poor soul asked Bill Belichick if it was weird to see this long-term adversary, a Steelers legend, in a Patriots uniform.
“This is the National Football League,” Belichick said.
It sure is.
Once the Steelers cut Harrison, everyone from Methuselah to Betty White knew where he’d end up next. The Pats have Super Bowl ambitions, but a shallow talent pool among edge rushers and linebackers. Harrison has an abundance of experience and know-how, though it’s probably safe to assume he’s a step or two slower than when he won the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2008. It remains unclear whether Harrison will ever play a snap for the Pats, or how many he will play. Belichick insisted this week that the newcomer would have to practice a bit before the team would know if or how it might use him.
Some have speculated that the Patriots only brought Harrison in to data-mine his brain for intelligence on the Steelers. If so, New England must have been disappointed to learn that Harrison had either slept through or skipped any meeting in which he might have collected useful information. It was probably more disconcerting that a rematch with Pittsburgh is still only a hypothetical that would be a month away if it even happens.
“Well, we play the Jets this week,” Belichick said, perhaps just then realizing that Harrison could not help him beat the Steelers in a game that might never happen.
Regardless of whether the Pats signed Harrison as a defector to assist with strategic intelligence and enemy codebreaking, it is clear they may have overlooked an obvious poison pill gambit. Harrison could very well be a double agent. The naps? The lack of reps in training camp? The lack of playing time during the season? It’s all a ruse straight out of Homeland Season 2. Sell the cover story. Infiltrate the Patriots. Report back.
Is James Harrison a double-agent? Prove that he isn’t. Tomlin always said he’d have a role. Maybe this is the week it begins.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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