James Harrison is going to the Super Bowl as a member of the New England Patriots.
Five weeks into the Harrison era in New England and that statement still sounds strange. When the 39-year-old Steelers’ legend surprisingly came available late in the season, the Patriots were the only ones who came knocking. After playing just 30 snaps through 16 weeks, most assumed Harrison was done. Some went as far as to suggest that Harrison was playing double-agent for the Steelers by signing with the Patriots. Yes, that was a real suggestion.
Signing Harrison, especially since he cleared waivers, was a no-lose proposition for the Patriots. At the very worst, Harrison was done and simply, he would not dress. Best case scenario, he filled a position that the Patriots desperately lacked on defense—someone to help set the edge.
It didn’t take long before he proved to be the latter.
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Harrison made his debut for the Patriots in a Week 17 matchup with the New York Jets. In 27 snaps, nearly matching his season total, Harrison tallied three tackles and two sacks.
“It felt good. I mean, it’s just like any other team,” Harrison said after the Jets game. “That’s like you going to a different news channel or a different newspaper. It’s no different than that.”
Harrison’s play has carried over through two playoff games thus far. In the divisional round, he was on the field for 30 snaps. He racked up three tackles, highlight by a one-armed tackle of Leonard Fournette around a Jaguars lineman. Additionally, he played four snaps on special teams, something Bill Belichick often requires of his veterans. In the AFC Championship Game, Harrison had a season-high, 32 defensive snaps in addition to seven snaps on special teams. Once again, he collected three tackles and was a physical presence when he was on the field.
“He’s given us a really solid level of play,” said Belichick via NESN on Wednesday. “Every play he’s into it, whether he’s in the game, in practice, on the field, or on the sideline, getting the call, mentally processing the play, meetings, film, walkthroughs, all of those things. This guy is a professional. He’s into football. He’s into his job and wants to do it well. I 100 percent totally respect that. That’s what you want from everybody.”
Harrison did not receive the send-off typical of a player that has been a legend for an organization. In fact, it was quite the contrary. Harrison’s commitment and professionalism were called into question from now ex-teammates, Bud Dupree and the irreproachable, Maurkice Pouncey. His motivations were doubted and he took heat for signing with the “rival” Patriots. However, since joining the Patriots it has been nothing but praise for Deebo from his new teammates.
“Oh, James, he’s the man,” said Kyle Van Noy. “He’s awesome. He’s been awesome since he got here. Really, he’s been a good addition for us in the locker room and his experience and just his competitiveness and his selflessness to be able to teach others. He’s been awesome.”
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“He’s a beast,” added Van Noy. “Good teammate. He helps out. He’s a great leader and has been a great addition to the locker room and has helped out everybody that’s asked him and he’s given knowledge as well. He’s been a great teammate and glad he’s on our team.”
Now, Harrison and his new teammates are 60 or so minutes away from winning a Super Bowl. Already a two-time champion, Harrison will be playing in his fourth Super Bowl. Just as he did for the Steelers nine years ago, Harrison can help the Patriots franchise win their sixth Super Bowl. If his first three games with the Patriots are any indication, he will play a key role in accomplishing that.
Not bad for an over-the-hill, 39-year-old veteran who couldn’t see the field for the Steelers.