EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 22, 2008

Life without Rodney begins today

Pats must move on despite injuries

On Pro Football

Hector Longo

LAWRENCE - Like the good soldier he is, Heath Evans wasn't divulging any news on Rodney Harrison.

The New England Patriots fullback, graciously giving up his day off to meet, greet and inform upperclassmen at Lawrence High School here yesterday on the benefits of quality nutrition habits, didn't have to speak on the veteran Harrison.

The ominous look said it all.

As reported yesterday on NFL.com, Harrison suffered a torn quadriceps muscle Monday night on the final third-quarter play in the blowout of Denver. Harrison, the 35-year-old safety, will likely join Tom Brady and Laurence Maroney on the injured reserve, meaning he won't return this year or possibly ever.

"It was a good win, but a tough game, too," said Evans, who played a huge role lead-blocking for Sammy Morris as the Pats rolled up 257 rushing yards Monday night. "Rodney is such an emotional player. I think his face might have said a million words."

As he was carted off the field, Harrison gave a point, probably to his family as if to say he was OK, then acknowledged the Gillette Stadium crowd with a few appreciative waves.

Harrison has been a Warrior here in Foxboro since 2002, but has endured a list of painful injuries that cost him 19 games over the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Coach Bill Belichick did not officially disclose the specifics on the Harrison injury in his scheduled conference call with the media, noting only: "It was difficult watching Rodney get carted off."

Harrison's exit comes at a precarious time for a New England secondary, that like nearly the entire roster, has been wildly inconsistent.

Currently, rookie corner Terrence Wheatley remains inactive as he nurses his way back to health. Second-year man Brandon Meriweather will be expected to shoulder the brunt of the safety work next to James Sanders.

In Sammy we trust

While the Harrison news was as dire as predicted late Monday, there is some optimism when it comes to Sammy Morris, who left the game at halftime with what the team called a "knee injury."

"Hopefully, he's OK," said Evans. "I saw him (after the game). He was in great spirits and seemed to be fine."

Morris, in his second season here, is absolutely pivotal to this offense and this team's playoff hopes.

Maroney is done and LaMont Jordan hasn't played in weeks, leaving only Morris as an experienced, proven load-carrier.

New England fans understand Morris' NFL track record, all too well.

A talented game-breaker, Morris has been bombarded by injuries in his career, starting only 25 games total in his previous eight seasons.

Last year, Morris flew out of the gate with 370 yards and a pair of 100-yard efforts in the first five games, only to see it all end in Week 6 with a collarbone injury.

A lesson at LHS

Evans' stop at Lawrence High yesterday was a collaboration between the American Dairy Council and the National Football League, part of a program stressing the importance of dairy in your diet.

He spoke briefly on proper food habits. "Has anyone ever heard of an essential carbohydrate," Evans asked a pair of lunch periods.

Afterward, the most approachable athlete in the Patriots locker-room showed he was just as personable with the student body, signing autographs and posing for pictures.

"My perspective is to whom much is given, much is required," said Evans, an Auburn product. "I love the interaction with kids. That's the best part. These kids are at the age where you can really influence their lives."

Coming out, taking the hour-plus drive only hours after a night of head-on collisions, couldn't have been easy. Evans was more than happy to oblige.

Help Heath, help yourself

The Heath Evans Foundation is sponsoring a benefit raffle, but you'd better hurry if you'd like to help out.

Evans' foundation, which aids sexually abused children, is raffling off an incredible package. For $10 per chance, you and five friends could win a chance to attend the Boston Celtics opener on Oct. 28 at TD Banknorth Garden against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

You can watch as the Celtics hoist "Banner 17" to the rafters, and you, if you're the winner, will do it in style, in a luxury box with Evans and Patriots like Tedy Bruschi, Matt Cassel and many more.

Everything is included in the package, limo ride to the game, food and drink, a football autographed by all the Pats in attendance. Heck, $433.69 in cash - the winner's tax liability - will also be included.

For information, go to netraffle.org and help out a great cause. Time is running out though. The raffle closes Oct. 27 at noon.