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Retired Patriots find surprising home — as TV, radio analysts

NBC Sports analyst and former Patriot Rodney Harrison. Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports

Mention to Rodney Harrison that a remarkable number of his former Patriots teammates are now enjoying successful media careers and the former safety immediately begins what sounds like a roll call of championship rosters past.

“Oh, yeah, there’s me, and Tedy [Bruschi] at ESPN and Willie [McGinest] at the NFL Network, and of course you have Ty [Law] and Troy [Brown] up there in Boston, and Teddy [Johnson] is doing radio down in Houston, and . . . man, there are a lot more. That’s a lot of us, isn’t it?”

It is. And Harrison, who excels at one of the best desk jobs in America as a studio analyst on NBC’s “Football Night in America” program, didn’t even come close to rattling off the full list. There are at least 15 members of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl winning teams who have full- or part-time media gigs of varying degrees of prominence.

Harrison and Bruschi, an analyst for ESPN since August 2009, are national stars. Damien Woody is also at ESPN. McGinest is one of the more familiar faces among the NFL Network’s ever-growing cadre of ex-player analysts. Rosevelt Colvin works for the Big 10 Network. Law and Brown are regulars on Comcast SportsNet New England. Law, a potential Hall of Fame cornerback whose default mode as an analyst is candor, could have a national role easily if he desired one. Dan Koppen joined them on CSNNE this year, and Matt Chatham and Jermaine Wiggins provide commentary for NESN. Johnson, Josh Miller, and Christian Fauria are among those who have had success in radio.


The roll call could go on longer, especially if considering players of the Belichick era who did not play on championship-winning teams, such as Heath Evans (NFL Network) and the late Junior Seau, who had his own television show on Versus for a brief time. Then there is perhaps the Patriot of recent vintage who would have been voted Least Likely To Pursue A Television Career. Who knew that Randy Moss, in his first year at Fox Sports 1, would be such a charming television presence?


“Yeah, Randy is probably one we wouldn’t have expected to go to TV, but there were guys who were just naturals at it, who were always comfortable talking in front of the camera,” said Brown. “Ty and Tedy for sure, and Matt Light [who spent a year at ESPN before deciding it wasn’t for him] was someone we always thought would be great at it.”

The reasons an ex-player would choose a media career after retirement are obvious. Even the medium-profile gigs pay very well, and it allows them to remain close to the game without making the time commitment that coaching might.

It’s just as apparent why ex-Patriots would have appeal as commentators. The franchise has enjoyed a remarkable decade-and-a-half run of success, which expanded their individual fame. But there’s more to it than that. Many of their former players believe a reason so many of them who thrived with a franchise not known for being cooperative with the media have found second careers in which they have excelled in the media.

It is not easy for an accomplished player to transition to becoming a successful commentator. Ray Lewis proves this true a couple of times per week on ESPN. So why have so many Patriots been able to do it?


Almost to a man, they say it’s because of the football intelligence they developed while playing for Bill Belichick — and their ability to communicate that intelligence — has allowed them to succeed in a field the coach has never been particularly fond of.

Here’s Harrison: “I think the common thread is a lot of smart guys. Guys that weren’t satisfied with just learning a little bit. I wasn’t satisfied with just learning the safety spot. I wanted to learn linebackers, and what the guys were doing upfront, and all the different twists and fronts. You have that wide knowledge.”

Bruschi says virtually the same thing: “We were always pushed intellectually in that locker room. And I think that using our brains and our minds to look at football a different way, the way that we were coached by Bill Belichick, it really helps us looking at the game now in terms of some of the things that I like doing — breaking down film and watching it and explaining to the public and the viewer in a way that I feel that they can digest it, because sometimes football can be complex.”

Adds Chatham: “I think a lot of it boils down to how well you understood what you were doing while you were doing it and then how well you were able to communicate it after. We tended to have a lot of those guys. Personally, I think Tedy Bruschi does as a good a job as anyone. He’s able to break it down, he doesn’t avoid the on-field stuff, and he’s able to get in there and teach a little bit while also speak to the regular guy.”


There’s some irony — and perhaps a hint of hypocrisy, too — in Bruschi being a media star. During his playing days, he did not exactly promote a culture of media cooperation. He was at the forefront, along with McGinest, of policing the locker room and making sure young players didn’t speak out of turn, if they were permitted to speak at all. If a young player said too much — talking about injuries was and remains a particular no-no — he was liable to receive a blunt message, such as finding a podium jammed in his locker, courtesy of Bruschi.

“If a young guy had one good game and starting perking up to reporters, he was going to learn to be humble about it pretty fast,’’ said Brown. “Tedy was especially great about that kind of stuff. You see someone like that, talking about himself and saying too much, he would give you the eye. You tend to get a little shorter and sweeter and learn to say ‘It is what it is’ after that.”

Many former Patriots were reluctant to say which players felt their peers’ wrath most often. But Brandon Meriweather and Bethel Johnson’s names came up more than most. And there were many times when Belichick dropped the hammer himself.


Meriweather, one former teammate recalled, was taken apart by Belichick in a team meeting after suggesting early in his rookie season that he had some idea of how to defend Wes Welker.

“Bill shut them right down, any young guy who thought he had the answers,’’ Harrison said. “Shut up, don’t say nothin’. They’d be afraid to speak to anyone after that.”

But veterans like Harrison and Law, who wore their hearts on their sleeves and sometimes allowed their mouths to go into overdrive, earned a little more leeway. They got away with talking a good game because they long ago proved they could play one, Sunday after Sunday.

“Bill trusted me. He allowed me to be who I am. And I appreciate that,’’ said Harrison. “Because let’s admit it. It’s one of the reasons I ended up in a position where I get paid to talk about football.”

Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.