Q and A with Rodney Harrison

<p>Friday's press conference with the the veteran safety of the New England Patriots. Rodney Harrison talks about Romeo Crennel, Ted Johnson, the play of the new guys and what they expect from the Pittsburgh Steelers.</p>

Q. I want to ask you about (inaudible). A lot of these guys weren't first-round picks. Do you think that ever helps guys like yourself to keep an edge to always feel as if there's an element of needing to prove something?

RODNEY HARRISON (RH): Yes because you always face that stigma that you're just a fifth rounder, that you're an overachiever, if you have any success, and no one really expects much out of you.

So I think, for the most part, guys that have been drafted in the 10th round and fifth round, you work even harder. You always have to prove yourself and go out there and do that extra mile in order to just be accepted.

And a bunch of guys on our team, we were late-round draft choices, free agents that came here, and guys always constantly have to prove themselves and, you know, really have to work hard to maintain a level of consistency in their play.

Q. Do you think that helps to maintain your focus even after 21 straight wins and a Super Bowl win last year, and all the other things that come with what you've accomplished?

(RH): It's more so what's internally inside the person because you can be a fifth-round draft choice, and you can go on and make millions of dollars and get complacent. I think if you have that fire burning inside of you constantly, never really being satisfied and always having that hunger to prove yourself.

I think you know in sports you're only as good as your last game. Fans remind of you that. Regardless of what you've done in the past, it's the past, you have to move on. You have to pay attention to what's going on in the future and really concentrate and put your attention to that so you can continue to have success.

Q. Because you have two physical teams there, is it important for a guy like you to set the tone immediately in that game?

(RH): Well, it's not just about me. You have 10 other guys on that defense as well as not including the offense. We have to go out there and play our most physical game, but we have to play a smart football game. We can't turn the ball over or make the mental errors we made, sacks on the quarterback, we can't give up the big play on defense like we did the first game. I think it's very important for us to go out there and establish that right off the top.

It's going to be a different game. They're not going to blow us out like they did the first game, but they're a tough team and we have to play our best football. They're the best team we face, and we've got a great challenge ahead of us.

We worked extremely hard this week and we need to establish things right now. We look forward to it.

Q. Is there a difference with Corey Dillon or without Corey Dillon?

(RH): I think it speaks for himself. With his presence, his presence alone forces them to have to put an eighth man in the box sometimes. Corey's been big for us. He's been our workhorse, a determined runner. He's definitely made a difference on our football team. You have to account for Corey. You can't just sit back and stack the line for the run.

Q. Is there a psychological difference? How big of a presence is he?

(RH): He's arguably our most valuable player on our team. We thought he should have made the Pro Bowl. Just phenomenal, and has a great presence in our locker room. Psychologically we have more confidence going into the game saying "We have Corey Dillon," whereas opposed to the first game, we didn't.

Q. Where does experience fit into this? Most of you guys have gone through this?

(RH): It's huge. I think you can definitely relate the experience you have had over the course of our career, over the course of time in the playoffs, to the younger players. I think you can. Really, I find myself describing different situations to Randall Gay, Dexter Reid, young rookie guys. You can relate what’s to be expected, what kind of crowd, what kind of atmosphere.

The veteran players have been through it, been down 15 points with 10 minutes left. So I think just having a veteran lineup, and that experience really will help us, and even if we get into a tight bind, guys won't panic.

Q. How do you take advantage of Ben Roethlisberger's inexperience?

(RH): Well, he doesn't look inexperienced to me. He's played like a seasoned vet. He's won 15 games in a row. This is probably the biggest game in his career. Not saying he can't have success. It's different. He's playing at home. He has a great defense where he doesn't have to take a lot of chances or make a lot of mistakes. You can rush the ball for 200 yards against us and control the ball and control the clock, it really helps you out as a quarterback. He hasn't seen everything.

Even though he's a young quarterback and he's played well, he hasn't seen everything, so I think we have to go out there and play good, solid football, not give him the big play, make him earn everything that he gets.

When we get a chance to tackle him, he's made a lot of big plays by guys falling off him, we have to tackle him.

Q. Can you comment on Hines Ward, he's obviously a very physical receiver. How difficult is he?

(RH): I can probably sum up Hines Ward by saying he's a pro. He's a football player, and you rarely get a guy like Hines Ward in this league. You get so many guys that want to moon people, but a guy like that who's willing to block a defensive lineman, a safety, he's 100 miles per hour every play. He's definitely one of my toughest challenges personally. He's always after you.

He's 205, 210-odd pounds, and he's tough as nails. He's one of the toughest football players I've ever faced. He's always out there laughing and smiling. If you get a good shot on him, he's going to come back on you. We talk a lot on the field. We play hard, and we both respect one another. We'll see what happens.

Q. Every team has different systems. How would you describe the Patriots' system from yours two years?

(RH): Versatile. I think with our linebackers and what the guys that we have in the secondary, we have the ability to do so many different things. It comes from the coach's confidence in our ability to go out there and get the job done. Our linebackers are so versatile. They can rush, drop into coverage or blitz. They do everything well.

It will be interesting to see what happens this week. I'm very excited. All the guys are excited. This will be a tough, hard-nosed physical fight.

Q. Most players would consider going to another team instead of taking a pay cut. What is it about Jerome Bettis that you believe may have had him stay in Pittsburgh this year?

(RH): I think there comes a time when it's not all about the money. Jerome Bettis has made a ton of money. I think it gets to the point where you're comfortable in a situation. You love where you are. Unfortunately, with this league, the older you get, that's the way the league is structured, they want you to take a pay cut. I believe Jerome, he had his heart set on retiring as a Steeler and playing good football.

He looks awesome right now. He looks like he's 26 years old, he's running with a lot of fire. He's excited, he's running intense, and he looks like he can play two or three more years. I think his commitment to the fans and the city of Pittsburgh really made him stay.

Q. You talked about Hines Ward, does that sort of exemplify the difference between the two games. Between last week and this week?

(RH): No question, these guys are probably the most physical set of receivers that we've seen. You've got Randal El and Hines Ward and these guys, they pride themselves on blocking. The safeties and the corners, they get up celebrating when they get a big hit, and they're going to be seeking us out and we'll be seeking them out. So it should be fun, some good collisions out there.

Q. When it's this cold, what do you think it feels like to get hit by you when it's 5 degrees out there?

(RH): I don't know. Hopefully it hurts them as much as it hurts me. It's pretty painful. When you're in the mix of playing football you really don't feel the cold. You really don't feel the bumps and bruises until a couple days after the game. It's just fun.

This is what you have been dreaming about since you were six years old. I started playing football then, and just to have this opportunity, you definitely want to capitalize on it.

I went to the Super Bowl in '94 in San Diego, you can't undermine the importance of this game. Like I told the young guys, don't take it for granted, because it's hard. First of all, it's hard to stay in the league for 10 years, let alone make it to the Super Bowl or AFC Championship.

Q. What impresses you about Romeo the most?

(RH): His personality. He's definitely a players coach. We respect him. It's not like we take him for granted. He's a very intelligent man. He knows what he's talking about. When he says something, 90 percent of the time, it's true, dealing with football. He's an honest guy, he tells you what he feels, what he thinks. He's very open-minded. It's been many times I say well, I think this is better in this situation and he said, let me take a look at that, and he comes back and says, you're right. A lot of coaches can't do that, put their pride down. I like that about Romeo. I think he's a leader. He's been overshadowed for so many years and I just appreciate everything he's done for me these last couple years that I have been here and I think he's a tremendous coach.

Q. On Ted Johnson…

(RH): Johnson is definitely going to be a factor. After battling injuries the last few years he's a strong physical presence. He's been dominating, a leader on and off the field. He's been very consistent with his tackling and how physical he plays. Our linebackers, those are the core guys in our group and they will be an impact.

Q. What is it about Vrabel that allows him to be in the middle of so many plays?

(RH): Like I described earlier he's versatile. These guys are playmakers. Coach Belichick said he used to be a defensive end and he runs. People underestimate that. When we're running the sprints, he's one of the first guys all the time. He works extremely hard in the weight room. He's probably the most intelligent guy on our football team. The guy is smart. He knows the defense inside and out. Tedy Bruschi is the most instinctive, but Vrabel is the most intelligent. He's got coaching in his future. He can do so many things.

Q. Are you like a proud papa now seeing how things turned out?

(RH): You basically look back there and you go from having two 10-year veterans playing with me and Ty Law, we play on

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