It’s been a season of disappointments for the Giants. That the latest one seems to have hit a popular member of the team on a personal level has made it all the more difficult to handle.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison, who was promoted to captain this month, was snubbed for the second straight year when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced on Tuesday. Harrison was a fourth alternate, so there is still a chance for him to make it to the game on Jan. 28. And he was recognized by interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo for achieving what is essentially an “honorable mention” in the voting. But the slight left many Giants players scratching their heads.
“He’s the best run tackle in the league. He deserves to be recognized,” fellow Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. “He should definitely be a shoo-in for at least one spot on the roster for the Pro Bowl.”
Said safety Landon Collins: “To be so disrespected is crazy. At the end of the day, the coaches know not to run the ball there when they see 98 in that gap.”
Harrison admitted that the rebuff for the spot, which he campaigned for on Twitter, hurt him.
“I go out there and I give it my all, and to not get that recognition, no matter how small or great, that’s something that I’ll never forget,” Harrison said. “At the end of the day, we all want to be recognized for what we do.”
What Harrison does, no one does better. According to Pro Football Focus, he leads the NFL in run stops among interior defensive linemen. That should be the definition of his position, but it isn’t. There are flashier players who make flashier plays, and it pays off for them when it comes to Pro Bowl recognition.
The three interior linemen selected for the NFC Pro Bowl team have totaled 21 sacks: the Rams’ Aaron Donald (11), the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox (five) and the Bucs’ Gerald McCoy (five). Donald and McCoy lead their teams in sacks. Harrison has only 1 1⁄2.
“I think if I played more on third down,” Harrison said of a strategy to gain more consideration. “But the scheme is not fit for me to be in on third down, and that’s what they ask me to do. I just try to excel on first and second down and whatever third-down opportunities I get. But most definitely [I’d be a Pro Bowler] if I was in on third.”
“It’s hard to get [sacks],” Spagnuolo said. “He’s not always in there in the third-down passing situations. So if we had him in there more in those down and distances, he might have more, because he’s talented and he can get a middle push, which you need in pass rush. Actually, last week he was in there on a few third-down plays. So, maybe we’ll get more of those.”
It’ll be too late for this year’s Pro Bowl voting, but not next year’s. One Giants player already has made it his mission to get Harrison to the All-Star Game in January 2019.
“Next year I’m pushing him there,” said Collins, who will start at strong safety for the NFC for the second straight year. “I’d rather him get there than me. He deserves to be there.”
Harrison’s 2017 season might not go completely unrecognized. Last year he was left off the Pro Bowl team but named an All-Pro, which many consider a higher honor anyway. There certainly are fewer players named All-Pro than to the Pro Bowl. The All-Pro teams do not rely on fan voting, which counts for one-third of the tally in the Pro Bowl. Harrison was not in the top 10 in fan voting this season but made the fourth alternate, so he does have admirers throughout the league.
More importantly, he has admirers on his team.
“I just think he’s one of the premier inside, interior linemen in this league,” Spagnuolo said. “I’d be hard-pressed to say that there’s many that do as many things as he does for us. I haven’t seen the other names [of the Pro Bowl players]. I just know that I’m a Damon Harrison fan.”
So maybe in this season of disappointments, Harrison isn’t one of them. Maybe he’s actually a rare positive note, Pro Bowler or not. That’s something in which Harrison takes tremendous pride.
“At that point when you’re not achieving the team goals, you have to just look within yourself,” he said. “Unfortunately, this year we weren’t able to accomplish what we set out to accomplish. No matter the outcome of games or whether we have a winning record or a losing record, we’ve just got to go out there and keep fighting. I don’t want to be one of those guys 10 years from now when they’re talking about this Giants team and they can say I wasn’t handling my business.”