James Harrison a snug fit with Patriots

By Brian Hall, The Sports Xchange
New England Patriots outside linebacker James Harrison. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
New England Patriots outside linebacker James Harrison. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

Participating in his league-mandated media obligations on Wednesday, James Harrison sat at a table lined with a black tablecloth in a cleared-out area of the Mall of America, sitting amongst his New England Patriots teammates who were not sent upstairs for interview sessions at the podium or makeshift risers.

The Patriots wore their white jerseys, but Harrison wouldn't have given his location away with just a cursory look. His well-known face -- and arms bulging out of his sleeves -- did the trick for media members who know the longtime linebacker well enough.


Harrison, his stocky, muscular frame showing every bit his listed 242 pounds, was wearing receiver Danny Amendola's No. 80 jersey. Amendola, upstairs on a riser, was swallowed in Harrison's No. 92 jersey.

"We just switched up," Harrison said. "He wanted to see what it was like to be in a dress, so to speak. I wanted to see what it was like to be back in these ones."


Harrison has done a good job fitting in with New England since he was signed on Dec. 26 after being released from the Pittsburgh Steelers. His well-publicized breakup with Pittsburgh, the team he spent 14 seasons with over two stints, was sour.

But he got a fresh start with the Patriots and he's only interested in playing his role as he seeks his third Super Bowl title.

"James has done a good job; very professional, really professional guy," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "Our system's a little bit different than the one he ran in Pittsburgh, but he's tried to adapt and pick up the things we've asked him to do. He's given us a good level of play. He works hard.

"Football's important to him. I have a lot of respect for that. He's done a good job for us in the short amount of time he's been here."

Harrison played one regular-season game with the Patriots and had two sacks and a forced fumble, giving his new team another quality pass rusher. In two playoff games, he has six tackles and a quarterback hurry.


"He's been amazing," New England linebacker Kyle Van Noy said. "Anytime you add a vet presence and leadership and a (darn) good football player, that helps. He's been amazing for the locker room. He's been amazing for young guys to learn from and he's been amazing for me to see how a true pro handles himself."

Part of that was quickly learning the differences in the scheme between the Patriots and Steelers. Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia both said Harrison went right to work.

"Unbelievable from the standpoint of a true professional, a guy that's been able to come in and just learn as much as possible, and really understand what we do and step right in," Patricia said. "It's been awesome to have him."

Wednesday, the 39-year-old Harrison said he hopes to play another "year or two max" right after joking about new teammate and 40-year-old quarterback Tom Brady.

"He's an old man," Harrison said laughing. "I'm young, real young, way younger than him."

Harrison also spoke briefly about the weight-room regimen that has kept him going while playing against players "80 pounds" heavier than himself. The added strength didn't make it easy to slide into the jersey of Amendola, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound receiver.


"It only took two of us to get me in it, so it wasn't that bad."

Easier for Harrison was playing the role of Amendola during one interview.

"You know, me and Tom (Brady), our chemistry is so strong that it's just a look," Harrison deadpanned. "Like, it's not even a long look. It's like this, right there and he knows what I'm thinking and I know what he's thinking."

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