INDIANAPOLIS - Were he still patrolling the Patriots defensive backfield, maybe Rodney Harrison would preach the team’s party line regarding its Super Bowl rematch with the Giants, which basically can be condensed to this:
Payback is not on our minds, and what happened in XLII has nothing to do with motivating us for XLVI. Next question. But Harrison, who is three seasons removed from his final NFL game and has flourished in his second career as a studio analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America’’ because of his unfiltered candor, says the suggestion that revenge won’t be a motivating factor for the Patriots is . . .
“It’s crap. It’s crap,’’ said Harrison, who will be a prominent part of NBC’s broadcast of the Super Bowl, which begins with a noon pregame show. “Of course it is. If you played on that 2007 team, you had an opportunity to go 16-0 and do something that no one has ever done in the National Football League. There was an opportunity to go 19-0. Of course you’re going to be devastated.’’
Harrison said he was devastated “for months’’ after the Patriots’ 17-14 loss in the Super Bowl, replaying Giants receiver David Tyree’s infamous “helmet catch’’ over and over in his mind. While Harrison has never been reluctant to talk about the loss or the play - he even will discuss it with Tyree during the pregame show - the feeling of what-if? is always there.
His former teammates still with the Patriots have a chance to alter that somewhat.
“They might deny it,’’ said. “I understand you don’t want to give the Giants bulletin-board material. But you still have key members of that team still there. Logan Mankins, Matt Light, Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, Wes Welker, so it’s a lot of guys that mean a lot, that core group of guys. So when you take away what the Giants took away, which inevitably could have been the greatest season in the history of the NFL, yes, it matters.’’
NBC will emphasize Harrison’s ties to the Patriots during its pregame show. Harrison will have taped interviews with Bill Belichick, as well as Wilfork and his wife, Bianca. There also will be a segment in which he takes on Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez in a simulated play.
Harrison acknowledges he’s pulling for his former team, not that it would be difficult to deduce. He’ll never have his chance to avenge Super Bowl XLII, but he hopes his former teammates leave the field Sunday with a fulfilling victory.
“You’d be a fool not to feel there’s not some sense of bitterness or revenge,’’ he said. “[The Patriots] are not going to come out and say it. But there is. Trust me.’’Chad Finn can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globechadfinn.