Patriots in wait-and-see mode as they welcome Harrison
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Patriots safety Devin McCourty got a closer look at James Harrison when the linebacker strolled through the locker room on Wednesday.
It left an impression.
“He’s a well put together human being. Scary-looking some would probably say,” McCourty said.
The Patriots’ deal with the former Steelers star also raised some eyebrows in Pittsburgh, where some of his former teammates voiced their displeasure with the circumstances surrounding his departure on Saturday.
“He erased himself; he erased his own legacy here. Let’s be serious,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said Wednesday. “It’s crazy. He wanted that. It wasn’t like the team said, ‘We want to let go of James Harrison.’ James Harrison wanted that.”
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound Harrison was unavailable for comment after his first practice with New England. He is expected to address reporters for the first time on Friday.
Regardless of what led to his exit from Pittsburgh, just how much of an impact the 39-year-old Harrison can have with his new team remains to be seen.
The two-time Super Bowl champion has competed against Tom Brady and New England during his 15 NFL seasons. Now he is in position to help the Patriots, who have faced the Steelers in the AFC championship game three times since 2001.
He is Pittsburgh’s career leader in sacks, piling up 80 1/2 during his 14 seasons with the Steelers and 82 1/2 during his career. He briefly retired in September 2014 following a forgettable season in Cincinnati but returned when the Steelers ran into injury trouble.
He joins a New England team that needs a victory over the visiting New York Jets on Sunday to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“We’ll see. I don’t know,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of his expectations for Harrison. “We’ll get out there this week and see how it goes. I’m not really sure how it’s going to go.”
No one is quite sure what Harrison has left in his tank. He has appeared in just five games and played a total of 38 snaps this season, posting only one sack.
Anything he could provide would be helpful, though.
New England’s defense has been racked by injuries this season. Fourteen different players have lined up at either linebacker of defensive end. It entered the week ranked 26nd in rushing defense and 29th in passing defense.
Linebacker Trey Flowers, who leads New England with 6 1/2 sacks, said there’s no limit to what he can learn from a veteran like Harrison.
“Everything really,” Flowers said. “He’s been doing it a long time. Very physical player. Obviously, in the weight room, just being able to keep his body strong and things like that. So, just a whole lot. ... Anytime you get a vet that’s been doing it a long time, you can learn a lot from him.”
NOTES: Brady sat out practice Wednesday with left shoulder and Achilles tendon injuries. Defensive lineman Alan Branch and running backs Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee all sat out with knee injuries. ... Receiver Malcolm Mitchell returned to practice for the first time since he went on injured reserve Sept. 7.
AP freelance reporter Chris Adamski in Pittsburgh contributed to this report.
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