NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday and said he believes Tom Brady can indeed play another 10 years due in part to the more stringent NFL rules. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Brady has stated in the past that he wants to play as long as possible — well into his 40s — and he maintained that approach during his appearance with Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday morning. Harrison, Brady’s former teammate, doesn’t doubt the quarterback.
“Tom Brady is probably talking about him playing until he’s 45, 50 years old because of the rule changes,” Harrison said. “The cornerbacks and the safeties, they can’t hit you when you come across the middle, they can’t jam you at the line of scrimmage. So he should be able to play for another 10 or 15 years because of the rule changes.”
Continued Harrison: “If you watch the preseason, you saw how these officials, if you’re breathing on a guy heavy, they’re throwing a flag. They don’t even give you the benefit of the doubt. They don’t even give you consideration. If you’re close to a guy, if you just stare at him too long, they’re throwing flags all over the place.
“Now, this league was changing because of all the additions of Russell Wilson and [Robert Griffin III] and all these mobile quarterbacks like Andrew Luck. Statues that are in the pocket like Brady and [Peyton] Manning and Joe Flacco, why wouldn’t they play — if they have a good offensive line to protect them, why wouldn’t they play another 10 years? Because once you grab a guy it’s a penalty. So I don’t see why they can’t be productive for another 8-10 years, especially the way Tom takes care of his body.”
After three weeks of frequent flags, the Patriots’ final preseason game was not a foul-fest. However, Harrison said he doesn’t believe that’s a sign that the officials will let up once the regular season gets underway.
“The officials came out and the point of emphasis was the illegal contact and the grabbing and holding of the players. I think they’re going to enforce it,” Harrison said. “I think the first half of the season, I think that’s going to be a point of emphasis. I think they’re going to stick with it. The NFL has already come out and said, ‘Hey, we’re not going to back down. We expect the officials, we’re going to hold them accountable to do the same thing. If it’s a grab, we don’t care how many penalties it is in the first quarter, in the first half, call it.’ So I expect a renewed focus on this and I think it’s something that’s going to continue.”
The stricter rules are being enforced following the Broncos offense’s inability to overcome a physical Sehawks defense in last season’s Super Bowl. A similar thing happened when the Patriots manhandled the Colts last decade. Both times, the losing team’s quarterback was Peyton Manning.
“It can’t be coincidental,” Harrison said. “All of a sudden he’s in Indy and they change it. Then he goes to Denver now and all of a sudden they change it. It’s just one of those things. He’s been a marquee quarterback for a lot of years, and the NFL does not want to see blowouts in the Super Bowl. They want the Super Bowl to be a lot more competitive. And they saw how that defense completely annihilated the Denver Broncos.
“Now, you have to look at tape and [determine] whether that was because they were grabbing, because they were holding, or because of great defense beating great offense. I don’t know what it is, but it was one of those things where I don’t think the Seattle Seahawks should have been punished, or any other team for playing good physical defense.”
Following are more highlights from the interview. For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots.
On Rob Gronkowski departing from normal Patriots protocol and revealing to the media Monday from the locker room that he’s ready to go for Sunday’s game: “It’s one of those things, when you enable a player, you give him the type of money they paid him after two or three years of playing, then you give him the power. He’s been able to kind of do whatever he wants to do, and there hasn’t been a lot of backlash or ramifications. So he feels like, hey, he can pretty much get away with anything. But at the same time, I think he’s probably tired of everywhere he goes to the store, everywhere he goes to the mall, people asking him, ‘Hey, are you going to play? What the status?’ Maybe he just called them up and said, ‘Hey, this is my last and final statement about my injury. I want to just make this statement and move past it.’
“But in that situation, being in that locker room, that’s one of the things you just can’t do. It’s really not up to the media. Your job as a player is to get healthy, and when you’re called upon and you have to get on that field and perform, that’s what you’re supposed to do. And that’s one of the things that guys in our locker room have never done. Christian Fauria, he knows about that. We didn’t call attention to ourselves. It wasn’t about us, it was always about the team. So it will be pretty interesting what happens.
“I’ll you this: Coming off an ACL injury before, I know guys will physically go at his knees. He needs to be very careful, because he’s a big, big target coming across that middle. And those smaller safeties and defensive backs, they’re not going to hit him up in the chest, they’re going to be aiming at that knee.”
On which positions on the Patriots are most concerning: “When you look at the offensive line, it’s got to be some questions [about] the depth of the offensive line. Anytime you get rid of a guy like Logan Mankins — and maybe he’s not the same pass protector that he once was, but obviously the best offensive lineman. The inconsistency of Nate Solder and those guys — you have one of the best quarterbacks in the league, and I just don’t understand how you can make yourself a better offensive line by getting rid of the guy that’s been the staple of the offensive line for so many years. But that’s not my decision. That’s part of it, they have to move forward.
“When I look at it, I look at the depth at the wide receiver position. Still a lot of unproven guys. Danny Amendola, he has to prove that he can stay healthy. Some of those young guys, they have to step up. Brandon LaFell, he was brought in here to make a difference, let’s see if he shows up.
“I also think the depth at the linebacker position.”
On the Patriots’ outlook: “It’s one of those things, you look at the quarterback position, and Tom, he’s been absolutely fantastic throughout his career. I think when you surround that with some guys coming back off injuries on the defense, you add a couple of pieces here and there, and I think you would have to put them along with the Denver Broncos as the two favorites in the AFC.
“[Bill] Belichick — we haven’t even talked about Belichick and his ability to coach and get those guys playing. Every year there’s always a couple of guys that kind of stand out and that you don’t really expect great performances from. I think every year you’ll find a guy like that. I look for Devin McCourty to step up and become more a leader. But the addition of Darrelle Revis and [Brandon] Browner when he comes back off his suspension, that’s going to be huge.”
On which team should provide the biggest challenge in the AFC East: “The one team is the Jets. The Jets, with Rex Ryan, he’s not afraid of Bill and Tom. He’s always going to put a good defensive game plan. It comes down, for them, the play of Geno Smith. He has to play well. He has to perform on a consistent basis. He either plays great or he plays terrible. They need to find some type of in between, not so extreme, with Geno. If they can get good, consistent quarterback play — I know they have Michael Vick backing him up, and who knows what happens with that situation. But they’re always going to have a good defense and they’re always going to compete. So if I had to pick one team, it would be the Jets.”