Harrison stole an unfair edge with HGH
RICH GARVENíS NFL NOTES
Rich Garven NFL
So you know, that youíre over the hill,
When your mind makes a promise that your body canít fill
That was my first thought Friday night when Rodney Harrison announced he had violated the leagueís policy on substance abuse, an act that earned him a four-game suspension without pay. According to ESPN.com, the Patriotsí veteran safety was bagged taking human growth hormone. The league doesnít test for it, but does take an unkind view toward its use.
There is, of course, the whole nuts-and-bolts football thing fans immediately began wondering about. Who will replace Harrison in the lineup? What games will Harrison miss? How will the defense fare without the linchpin of its secondary?
The answers are, respectively: James Sanders; the Jets, San Diego, Buffalo and Cincinnati; and weíll see, because losing a player of Harrisonís caliber is enough to tilt the balance of favor toward the Jets, Chargers and Bengals.
Then thereís the question of what this does to Harrisonís reputation. Itís not as if it was impeccable ó he was, after all, voted the dirtiest player in the NFL last season by his peers in one poll ó but it was credible. Harrison is the kind of player you want on your team, but to hell with him if he suits up for anyone else.
Thatís why Harrison will receive a standing ovation when he takes the field at sold-out Gillette Stadium on the afternoon of Oct. 7 for a game against the Browns. (Assuming, that is, he suits up for the first game heís eligible to play.) Itís also why, if Harrison played for the Browns, those very same people would let him have it with both barrels.
Thatís all well and good, but it is what it is. Whatís fascinating is Rodney Harrison took HGH. Rodney Harrison.
Harrison has always come across as honest and forthright during my dealings with him. He isnít a politician when he speaks (Tom Brady, anyone?). With Harrison, there is no straddling of the fence. Heís like ice water ó real and refreshing.
A week ago, I devoted this very space to praising Harrison. I wrote of his competitiveness and how he ó in a locker room filled with accomplished players ó is the real sheriff. And I wrote how, as Harrison prepares to enter his 14th season, he still played the game with the zest of a kid.
Thatís all still true. Trouble is, Harrison isnít a kid anymore.
While the furnace still burns inside him even on the hottest of two-a-days in August, Harrison will turn 35 in December. He has suffered three major injuries in the last two years, injuries that caused him to miss more games (19) than he played in (13).
To accelerate the return from those injuries, Harrison turned to the black market. But he insists not for the wrong reasons.
ďMy purpose was never to gain a competitive edge,Ē Harrison said Friday night during a one-way conference call he initiated as a pure-Rodney preemptive move, one designed to quickly and decisively take charge of the situation.
No, Harrisonís purpose wasnít to gain a competitive edge. Rather, it was to regain one.
If youíre having trouble distinguishing the difference between the two, thatís because there isnít one. And for an honest guy, Harrison failed to be honest with the one person that matters most ó himself.
We can only assume ó and Harrisonís actions donít give us any reason to believe otherwise ó that if he didnít take HGH, he would no longer be the Rodney Harrison his teammates have always relied on, the opposition has always been wary of, and the fans have always had a strong opinion about. And that might have been enough to spell the end of Harrisonís NFL career.
Harrison has never just been an NFL player, but rather a player who mattered. He has made a difference when he plays and not every player can say that. But as the body told him no, the mind kept saying yes. In the end, the devil in the left ear won out over the angel in the right ear. Sad.
The human body naturally produces HGH. Just like its name implies, itís a hormone that promotes human growth during childhood and the re-growth of body tissue our entire life. Trouble is, HGH levels dramatically decline from the age of 30 and on.
So, Harrison took matters into his own hands and started injecting the synthetic version into himself.
Harrison only got nailed because his name was linked to an investigation by New York state authorities into an Internet operation that distributed steroids and other assorted performance-enhancing drugs. Up until then, he had gotten away with his trip into an artificial Fountain of Youth.
Harrison was contrite during his public apology Friday night, but he didnít take any questions. There are, however, questions to be asked.
Harrison began using HGH two years ago. But has he been on it since? Or did he stop and then start again in, say, March when he might have realized it was his only chance at returning to full form for this season? Like splitting hairs, does it matter either way?
Harrison and HGH. Itís unthinkable and, because of that, fascinating.