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Does the Patriot Way exist in Las Vegas?


Duron Harmon spent seven seasons in New England, and was a member of three winning Super Bowl-winning teams.

The Las Vegas Raiders safety was a fixture on Bill Belichick’s defense and weaned on the Patriot Way. He learned about the NFL from the master himself. That’s why it was curious to hear Harmon say in April during an appearance on “Good Morning Football” that new Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels wasn’t trying to copy the Belichick blueprint for success.

Harmon said McDaniels, the Patriots’ longtime former offensive coordinator, was “trying to create a culture that is not the Patriot Way.”

Speaking with Harmon on Thursday, days before he and the Raiders will host the Patriots for joint practices Tuesday and Wednesday, he explained what that meant. Quite simply, McDaniels is trying to be his own man.

As others — Matt Patricia, Joe Judge, Eric Mangini and McDaniels in his first go-round with the Broncos — learned the hard way, trying to imitate Belichick does nothing but earn you a pink slip. It’s better to create your own identity.

“Josh is Josh. Josh will never be Bill,” said Harmon. “Josh can’t emulate the Patriot Way because that’s not Josh’s way. Josh can only be himself, and who Josh is, is who Josh wants to be.

“I’m just excited I get the opportunity to work with him again. Not only is he a phenomenal coach, but he’s a phenomenal man and a phenomenal leader. It’s been a lot of fun being here and being under him as a player on his team.”

So how would Harmon describe the McDaniels Way, which is fast becoming the Raiders Way?

“It’s just being accountable to one another,” he said. “I think that’s what it truly comes down to, on the field and off the field.”

At the same time, it would be foolish to ignore some of the lessons learned under Belichick. There will be some carryover with McDaniels applying some of the Hoodie’s wisdom. It’s inevitable.

“I think there’s always going to be similarities given how long Josh was in New England. That’s where he grew up as a coach, and that’s where he was also a six-time Super Bowl champion,” said Harmon. “So he enjoyed that place, loved that place, and learned from that place. So there will be similarities, but at the end of the day, you’re your own man.

“He’s the same guy I’d sit down with in the cafeteria in New England and have conversations with. He’s still that same guy. But at the same time, his responsibility is to make sure we’re the best football team we can be. And he’s doing a good job of that.”

Harmon, who spent time in Detroit and Atlanta before landing in Las Vegas, certainly hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He’s carried remnants of the Patriot Way wherever he’s gone. It’s a part of him.

“The Patriot Way has helped me become a player who’s played on Super Bowl-winning teams, and I’ll be forever grateful,” said Harmon, a 2013 third-round pick for Belichick. “It taught me the importance of not only playing good in games, but playing good in practice, because that’s the way you do play well in games. That Patriot Way is the reason why I’m still playing, 10 years in the National Football League.”

In Vegas, it helps that there’s a familiar look to the defense, with former Patriot assistant Patrick Graham, most recently the defensive coordinator in Miami, then with the New York Giants, running the Raiders’ defense.

Harmon knew him from his time in New England. Graham worked with Patricia, then the Patriots defensive coordinator. So Harmon, once part of the Patriots’ Rutgers connection with Devin McCourty and Logan Ryan, has followed his coaches and mentors, earlier playing for Patricia in Detroit.

He can’t wait to see what Patricia has up his sleeve during the week, given he’s now presumably calling the offensive plays for Mac Jones.

“I’ll tell you what, that’ll be cool seeing him (call the plays). I’m really looking forward to seeing Matty P,” said Harmon. “I’m going to give him a crack, or a joke or two, but I know one thing, he works extremely hard at everything he does.

“I won’t be surprised when he’s calling and dialing up some good stuff. But I’m definitely looking forward to competing against him … it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Harmon wasn’t surprised seeing Patricia hold multiple roles under Belichick, be it senior football advisor, offensive line coach, and presumably, offensive play-caller.

“You know what they say, the more you can do … but he’s doing a lot,” said Harmon. “I know he can handle it. He wouldn’t take on any responsibilities he didn’t think he could handle.”

While with the Falcons last year, Harmon played against the Patriots in a Week 11 matchup. The Falcons hosted the Patriots for a Thursday night game, so Harmon got an up-close look at Mac Jones.

“He’s a good football player. Anybody that can come in and start for the Patriots right away, lets you know that they’re smart, dependable, and a good player,” said Harmon. “It’s hard. They put a lot on you, and as a rookie, it takes some adjusting, and I thought he adjusted really well.

“I’m looking forward to it. We had some safety and quarterback battles. He got me a couple times, and I was able to get him a couple times. It was fun to have that type of matchup. You could see that he’s a good quarterback.”

Now 31, Harmon says he doesn’t know who’s more excited to be in Las Vegas, him or his kids. But he does see “potential” for the Raiders to be special, even in a loaded division with the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos.

“Working again with Josh, working again with Pat, coming out every day with a group of guys who are hungry, and excited about playing football,” he said. “And then, also just looking at the talent, the talent that this team has. Talent only takes you so far, but it’s a good place to start. I couldn’t be more excited about joining this team, and getting the opportunity to compete with these boys.”

McDaniels took a slew of former Patriot coaches with him to Vegas, (Mick Lombardi, Carmen Bricillo, Bo Hardegree, Jerry Schuplinski, Graham) along with several former players including Harmon, Brandon Bolden, Josh Stidham, Jakob Johnson, Isaiah Zuber and Jermaine Eluemunor.

Said Harmon: “What I’ve learned over time, is that you can never do anything alone. You need a good team around you.”

Winning three championship rings with the Patriots is a testament to that.

Edelman return?

During an appearance on the Rich Eisen Show, retired Patriots receiver Julian Edelman planted the seed of a possible return to football.

Not as a year-round football player, more like a guy who’d slip in and play at the end of the year and post-season.

Edelman, now 36, retired from football largely because one of his knees couldn’t hold up to the rigors of a season. However, nearly two years out of football, he wouldn’t rule out a return if the Patriots, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or another playoff-caliber team came calling later this season.

FOXBORO MA - September 26: Former New England Patriot, Julian Edelman runs out onto the field as he acknowledges the cheering fans at half time of the NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
FOXBORO MA – September 26: Former New England Patriot, Julian Edelman runs out onto the field as he acknowledges the cheering fans at half time of the NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at Gillette Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

“I’ll tell you right now, if I had three weeks, three maybe four weeks — beginning of the season, absolutely not,” Edelman said about a possible comeback. “But if there’s a team vying for a playoff run, guy goes down. Could I get ready? I probably could. … You can never say never.”

Former teammate Harmon’s reaction?

“That would be cool. That would be a story for sure,” Harmon said. “He’s trying to do what (Rams safety) Eric Weddle did, coming back for a couple games and winning a championship.”

Edelman told Eisen he missed the game more this year than last.

“I miss waking up in August, going to the field and smelling the fresh-cut grass, seeing the sprinklers just finished. Seeing our equipment guys just finishing setting all the stuff out. The locker room, the fellas, the competition.

“Now, being in my second year out, I can actually miss it because last year it was still ingrained in my head. That last year was rough. Football is not fun when you’re bruised — when you feel like (expletive).”

Pickens turning heads

Bill Belichick might never live down the N’Keal Harry pick, considering all the great receivers (Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf) he missed out on in the 2019 draft.

No doubt all eyes will be on Tyquan Thornton, the Patriots’ second-round pick, and how he fares compared with others in his draft class. Thornton, at the very least, doesn’t look he’ll be available at the start of the season, and likely beyond given the reported collarbone injury he suffered Friday night against the Panthers. So other rookie receivers will get a jump on him.

Already, George Pickens, taken by the Steelers at No. 52, two picks after Thornton, has been drawing rave reviews. Skyy Moore, taken at No. 54 by the Chiefs, is another wideout to monitor. Of course, Thornton could emerge as a star down the road, whenever he returns, and the discussion ends.

If not, Pickens, the 11th receiver chosen overall, and Moore, will pique the curiosity of Patriots fans.

Pickens, a Georgia alum whose stock likely dropped because of the ACL tear he suffered in spring practice last season, has been electric by most reports. During the Steelers preseason opener against the Seahawks, Pickens had three catches for 43 yards and a touchdown. He caught a 26-yard fade in the right corner of the end zone, and made it look easy.

“His body control is something serious,” two-time All-Pro free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick said of his teammate via the Pittsburgh Tribune. “You saw it Saturday night in the back of the end zone. Everything looks easy and natural to him.”

Fellow wide receiver Diontae Johnson sounds awestruck.

“He’s a freak, that’s what he is,” Johnson said. “That’s a special talent. You can’t teach some of the things he does.”

Irsay high on Ryan

Colts owner Jim Irsay is bullish on Matt Ryan and his football team.

Meeting with the media Wednesday, Irsay said the addition of Ryan had bolstered his hopes for another championship, saying the quarterback was “everything we hoped and dreamed for.”

Irsay basically chalked up last year’s “massive problems” to former quarterback Carson Wentz’ inconsistency.

He’s expecting Ryan to help return the Colts to greatness.

“We did all those things with Peyton (Manning) and Marvin (Harrison), as well documented,” Irsay said. “The 115 wins in a decade, going to two Super Bowls, winning two home AFC Championship Games.

“But now’s the time to create another era. It’s been created in Pittsburgh. It’s been created in Green Bay. It’s been created in Denver. So, you have to do that. I mean, it’s about greatness.”

Forgetting someone?

How about the Patriots with six championships over the course of two decades?

Interesting slight, to say the least.

Patriots with second-oldest roster

Bookies.com, doing the math on every team’s projected 53-man roster, calculated the average age for all 32 NFL teams this season.

The results?

The Raiders (27 years, 5 months, 27 days) and Patriots (27 years, 5 months, 13 days) land in the top two spots on the list in terms of having the oldest rosters in the league.

The youngest?

The Browns (25 years, 5 months, 27 days) stand as the youngest. Just above them are the Chiefs and Rams.



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