Unemployed Harrison generating little interest

Marvin Harrison(notes) turned 37 on Tuesday. However, the former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver shouldn’t expect a new NFL contract as a birthday gift.

At least that’s the opinion of five NFL personnel men who were asked last week about the prospects of Harrison ending up on a roster anytime soon. While that’s hardly definitive (it takes only one team to have a need for Harrison to get a job), a lot of things are working against the second-leading receiver (1,102 catches) in league history.

“The biggest question I have is, can he really play anymore?” said one general manager. “When I watched the tape of him, he really didn’t look like he had that much left. You can see that the knee [injury from 2007] is still bothering him.”

Photo Marvin Harrison’s job prospects have been hindered by a knee injury suffered in 2007.
(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The consensus opinion about Harrison, who at 6-foot, 185 pounds never has been an overpowering receiver, is that he has lost a lot of quickness. That quickness allowed him to get away from defenders in the past. Without it, opposing teams regularly were able to cover Harrison, who averaged a career-low 10.6 yards per catch last season, with nickel and dime cornerbacks.

What makes Harrison’s physical condition worse is that he offers limited potential on special teams, the prevailing thought of personnel guys. Though he occasionally could catch punts, backup wide receivers commonly have to be able to play special teams.

In addition, there is a perception that Harrison had an attitude problem. Cleverly hidden for years behind Harrison’s Garbo routine is that he and quarterback Peyton Manning(notes) didn’t get along, which could be the fault of either player. However, there is a memorable exchange that an opposing coach once had with Harrison before a game in 2006. When the coach noticed that Harrison was catching punts in warmups, he walked over to Harrison to ask what was going on.

“Marvin smiled a little, just a little, and then said, serious as a heart attack, ‘It’s the only way to get the ball around here,’ ” the coach said of a player who set an NFL record with 143 grabs in 2002 but was limited to just 80 the past two seasons.

Harrison has been deemed to be just as much a diva as a number of other receivers – without the high-profile public displays. That said, it allegedly annoyed plenty of people, which is why the Colts ultimately cut ties with him in the offseason.

Even more, there’s the off-field issue. Harrison was questioned about a shooting that took place near one of his businesses in his hometown of Philadelphia in April 2008. However, Harrison never was charged with anything.

So while reports surfaced in the offseason that Harrison wasn’t ready to retire, there’s been a stagnant to nonexistent market for his services.

“Normally, you’d think a guy like Marvin would have a few offers out there by now, but I haven’t heard of anything aside from the report that Tennessee called about him,” one personnel executive said. “Really, there’s nothing out there, and it’s not like there are some teams that couldn’t use a guy like that. Jacksonville needs a guy. Miami needs a guy. Kansas City, San Francisco, Washington, they all need somebody.”

QUICK SLANTS

Photo Favre

Favre flak: One prominent NFL head coach recently sneered at the idea of Brett Favre(notes) joining the Minnesota Vikings so late in training camp.

“This is a process,” the coach said. “You don’t just show up and all of a sudden know how to play with guys. … I’m not talking about the playbook. You can learn the plays. That’s not the problem. It’s knowing how your guys react to each other, how they run routes, knowing their body language.

“You have to be around for that.”

While those comments have been echoed by many coaches and players around the league when discussing Favre, it’s worth noting this line from a tribute to a famous Mississippi high school coach who died in 2003.

“Big Irv was a determined disciplinarian and hard-nosed. There were no excuses for missed practices,” the tribute reads.

Of course, that’s a tribute to Favre’s dad, Irv, who also was Favre’s high school coach.

Helping hand from dad: Speaking of fathers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman(notes) hasn’t just been hearing the call for patience from team management. He has been getting the message from his father Ron.

Ron Freeman is former All-American linebacker who played in the USFL, coached high school football in Kansas City and recently has worked with the DeBartolo Football Academy as an instructor.

Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik credited Ron Freeman with helping develop Josh’s patient approach since the Bucs took him in the first round in April’s NFL draft.

“[Freeman] has a father who is very smart about all of this,” Dominik said. “His father played and he is one of those guys who gets the big picture as well. He grounds [Josh] and helps him to understand, be patient, your time will come. He’ll tell him, ‘Hey, they drafted you in the first round, if they don’t start you the first year, it’s OK.’ He’ll say those kinds of things, and it’s a good thing.”

Photo
LeBeau

Clarification on the HOF: Rod Woodson became the latest former player to lay the blame at the feet of the wrong people regarding Dick LeBeau not being in the Pro Football Hall of Fame already.

During his speech at the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio on Aug. 8, Woodson said the electors, a group 44 people made up primarily of sportswriters who cover the NFL, need to vote in LeBeau. LeBeau, 71, has spent 50 years in the NFL. That includes 14 as a player in which he had 62 interceptions to rank seventh on the all-time list. As a coach, he’s helped perfect the famed zone-blitz scheme that the Steelers have used for nearly 20 years.

While many supporters believe LeBeau deserves inclusion, the electors currently have no control of the situation. LeBeau’s eligibility as a player ran out long ago, which means he’s no longer on the ballot. As a coach, he is not eligible until five years after he retires and he has no immediate plans to retire.

What LeBeau needed at this stage was to be nominated by the Hall’s senior committee, which actually happened on Tuesday.

Kessler to remain: Rumors have been floating for months that lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who has served as outside counsel for the NFL Players Association for more than 20 years on matters such as the collective bargaining agreement, would be phased out by the union as it works on a new CBA with the league.

That may be wishful thinking on the part of the owners.

One highly placed source within the NFLPA indicated that Kessler will be kept on for the very reason that the owners had hoped he would be gone.

“The owners hate Kessler because he beat them,” the source said, referring to the fact that Kessler’s work helped create the current CBA in 1993. “For that very reason, he’s going to still have a role.”

While there has been criticism of Kessler in recent months for his handling of the StarCaps case and the lawsuit against the union by retired players, the union still views Kessler’s deep understanding of the CBA as critical.

“No one understands and can process the issues better than Kessler right now,” another union source said.

Photo Dixon

Odds and ends: Here’s hoping the shoulder injury Pittsburgh Steelers QB Dennis Dixon(notes) suffered Saturday night isn’t too bad. Dixon was having an impressive camp with the Steelers. Despite being a spread-option quarterback in college, Dixon was working hard to perfect his craft as a pocket passer and was impressing coach Mike Tomlin. … The San Diego Chargers may not have the top receiving trio in the NFL, but their depth is amazing. San Diego has three guys at the end of their receiving corps who could either play for most teams right now (Gary Banks(notes) or Charly Martin) or would be a sure bet to make someone’s practice squad as a prospect (6-foot-5 rookie Greg Carr). … The Miami Dolphins are doing a good job of keeping it under wraps right now, but rookie QB Pat White(notes) won’t just be running some “Wildcat” plays. Look for the Dolphins to run some spread-option stuff with him as well. … The Denver Broncos will have a better offense than most people expect without QB Jay Cutler(notes) because the depth of the skill position players is excellent. In particular, second-year receiver Eddie Royal(notes) already is clearly on the same page with new QB Kyle Orton(notes). However, if wide receiver Brandon Marshall(notes) isn’t productive, Royal will get swallowed by double teams.

The final word: It has been several weeks since I got this email from Steve Alvarado of Detroit. In more than two years of following the Michael Vick(notes) story, this was the only message that gave me a chuckle.

A week or so before Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, Alvarado wrote: “Why is it OK for the ESPN to hire a Lion Killer [Matt Millen], but Mike Vick can’t get a job?”


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Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009