FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Thousands of fans lined the concourse of Patriot Place on Monday to watch the Patriots Hall of Fame induction of safety Rodney Harrison and offensive tackle Leon Gray.

Harrison became the seventh player from the 2003-2004 Patriots championship teams to be inducted in the team’s Hall of Fame. The safety thanked Coach Bill Belichick, numerous Patriots teammates and told stories that even had his former coach laughing.

“I have a lot of respect for Coach Belichick because when I met Coach Belichick, he didn’t ask, ‘are you still injured?’ ‘Can you still play?’ ” said Harrison. “He said, ‘I know you can still play.’ He never followed the narrative. Everybody said, ‘Rodney’s done.’… He didn’t give a damn about that. Really, what I loved about Coach Belichick, he kept it so real. When I came here he gave me the freedom to play … I appreciate you Coach for that.”

Harrison played for the Patriots from 2003-08 and was a defensive catalyst for the first part of this franchise’s dynasty. Harrison was named to two All-Pro teams and won two Super Bowls in Foxborough. He played his best in the big moments for the Patriots. He finished with seven interceptions in nine playoff games with New England, including two in the Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The safety was so good in practice that he even brought out the best in Randy Moss in their two seasons together.

“I’ve always had the utmost respect for Rodney Harrison and what he brought to the game,” said Moss. “I followed him as a Charger, then being able to be a teammate with him as a Patriot, it was just something I told him, I said, ‘Dude, I’ll definitely cherish the time we had together,’ because he was the one that made the whole offense. Bill (Belichick) will definitely tell you. (Offensive coordinator) Josh McDaniels will definitely tell you. Rodney Harrison was that player if you didn’t come to practice every single day he would embarrass you.”

Gray played in New England from 1973-78. In 1976 he helped an offensive line that averaged a franchise-record 210.6 rushing yards per game. He was selected for induction by a 10-person senior selection committee in April. Gray was named to four Pro Bowl teams and three first-team All-Pro teams. Gray died in 2001.

On Monday, his former teammate John Hannah spoke about their time together. He called the trade of Gray to the Houston Oilers in 1979 one of the saddest days of his life.

THE PATRIOTS haven’t had much luck finding offensive linemen depth this offseason.

On Monday, the team placed J.J. Dielman on the reserve/retired list. He became the third offensive linemen to have retired in Foxborough this offseason.

First, tackle Jared Veldheer retired eight days after signing with the Patriots. Veldheer was expected to provide depth and push for a starting spot at left tackle. Last week, guard Brian Schwenke retired before the first day of training camp. Schwenke originally made the Patriots’ 53-man roster last year before ending up on injured reserve. Schwenke’s roster spot was taken by Dielman.

Dielman, 25, lasted three days in Foxboro. The Patriots now have an open roster spot – again.


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