Rodney Harrison officially retired this morning, but not before he stunned the media speechless in the first minutes of his conference call with his opening statement.
"Today is a very exciting day for me. Contrary to what you guys have reported, I just got off the phone with Coach Belichick and I'm very excited about getting acclimated with my teammates and getting back out on the field. Knee feels great. He told me that I don't really have to report until September 1. So I'm very excited about that."
There was silence on the conference call, before Harrison said "I'm just pulling your leg."
After 15 seasons in the NFL, the last six with the New England Patriots, Rodney is walking away while he can still walk. Patriots fans will still catch a glimpse of him on NBC Sports as an analyst this season but it won't be the same. His presence on the field and the excitement he brought to each game will be profoundly missed.
Patriots.com offers the full audio version of the conference call. (22.45 min.)
Mike Reiss offers some highlights from Rodney's announcement, asking him how close he was to playing.
Harrison said about 4 or 5 teams expressed interest in signing him to play this season, but "after a while, I got home, started spending time with my kids, and I started realizing there is a point in time when you need to walk away. Football was no longer the priority. God was the priority. Family was the priority. I really didn’t have that fire any more."
Mike Reiss also asked him directly how firm his decision was, and if there would be a Brett Favre-like desire to play again.
"Never. Never. For me, that’s a very thin line and a sensitive issue. I don’t want guys on my team, or guys I played with, to have to answer questions about Rodney Harrison’s return. When I made my decision to retire, I made my decision to retire. I just thought it would be very disrespectful of me to come back and forth and not make my decision. That’s why I said June 1 was my date. So now, being fair to my teammates, being fair to the organization I played and coaches I played for, I wanted to make that concrete decision and not have my teammates have to deal with it. I never want to be a distraction. … Like I said in my statement, I’m done. I’m very much so at peace with that."
Christopher Price offers his take on the reasons Rodney gave to walk away from the game.
"I want to be able to walk with my kids," said Harrison, who has suffered some serious injuries over the last four seasons. "I didn’t want to see my buddies playing golf, and I would be over there in a wheelchair or a cane."
"The only way I was going to stop playing football was to be carried out. God had a plan for me, but I’ll be able to walk away knowing I could still play and that other teams still had interest in me."