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Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Can a Harrison-type player exist today?

By Mike Reiss

PHOENIX -- Bill Belichick spoke with reporters at the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday morning, and those present will pull out different things that struck them over the course of the 50-minute session.

Rodney Harrison
Bill Belichick considers Rodney Harrison one of the best safeties ever to play in the NFL.
If picking one thing above all else, Belichick's answers on a comparison between newly signed safety Adrian Wilson and former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison -- followed up by if a Harrison-type safety can actually exist in today's NFL -- was the winner.

Here's how it went down:

A question was framed to Belichick that Wilson and Harrison have a lot of similarities -- both joined the Patriots later in their careers, play with a distinct toughness, are bigger in stature, and had been with a team out west for a long time.

Belichick said he understood the comparison -- he had earlier praised Wilson as a player -- but stopped short of embracing it.

“Rodney Harrison is one of the greatest players to ever play for the New England Patriots, and one of the greatest players to play his position in the National Football League," Belichick said. "That’s a pretty high comparison. I’m not saying [Wilson] is or isn’t, but you’re talking about a great player.”

I knew Belichick was high on Harrison and what he did for the franchise (2003-2008), but wasn't sure it was at that level.

Some people have asked over the years whether Harrison has a realistic chance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and remarks like Belichick's would certainly strengthen his candidacy. Belichick has been coaching in the NFL since 1975 and he's seen a lot of safeties over that time.

On a related note, a follow-up question was asked on Harrison: Can you play safety in the NFL that way anymore? Will there ever be another Rodney Harrison or Ronnie Lott ... who played the position in such a hard-hitting manner?

Belichick clearly liked this topic, probably more than any other.

"That's a great question," he responded. "Time will tell. I don't think you can take it out of the game, but it may not be able to be what it was."

Something to ponder as we consider the Patriots' safety corps in 2013 and going forward.