EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) When the New York Giants signed Damon Harrison as a free agent in the offseason, they got more than one of the NFL’s top defensive tackles.
The 343-pounder who is known to teammates as ”Snacks” is somewhat of a character. He will hang around with the defensive backs as much as he does with the lineman.
That was the case Friday as the Giants (11-5) started wrapping up preparations for this weekend’s wild-card game against the Packers (10-6) in Green Bay on Sunday.
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On a day he was honored as an All Pro for the first time, Harrison couldn’t help but tell a story about how he walked up to cornerback Janoris Jenkins and managed to take an ”NYPD Football” hat from a box that the New York police had sent to the defensive backs.
The unit was nicknamed ”NYPD” by Newsday Giants beat writer Tom Rock about a month ago – ”New York Pass Defense” – and the NYPD football team sent over the hats on Thursday.
Harrison liked them and took one, despite objections from Jenkins.
What Harrison wants this weekend is a win in his first playoff game, and he will be playing a big part for a Giants’ defense that is playing as well as any group in football at this point.
The goal for the unit will be to limit Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has not thrown an interception in the six-game winning streak that carried Green Bay to the NFC North title.
The keys for the defense will be to keep Rodgers in the pocket, not letting him run or extend plays.
The other goal is to make him one-dimensional: take away his running game, and that’s where Harrison comes in.
He has been stuffing the middle all season for the Giants, with one of the few exceptions being the game against Green Bay in October. The Packers rushed for 147 yards.
Harrison remembers. The Giants did not tackle well.
”I have a chip on my shoulder about everything. Not just that,” Harrison said. ”That’s something to add to it, but we didn’t do a good job. Like I said yesterday, I think a lot of their yards came after contact. We just didn’t tackle well and they were able to get out and make some plays.”
Harrison called Rodgers one of the greatest to play the game, noting he makes a lot of good plays with his legs. That requires the defenders to focus on their technique and do the little things.
When Rodgers makes a pump fake, don’t leave your feet. Keep your lane on the rush and hit him when you get the chance.
”Guys are focused,” Harrison said. ”I don’t know how often you’re in here, but you can see the locker room is the same now in Week 18 as it was in Week 1. No one is stressing and everyone knows the importance of this game.
”At the end of the day, we don’t play the game until Sunday. Just keep your preparation the same. Maybe change some other things, but don’t change who you are.”
The Giants have not been to the playoffs since 2011, so there are not a lot of players with postseason experience.
Those who have it have spoken to the team: Eli Manning, Zak DeOssie, Jonathan Casillas, Victor Cruz and some of the coaches.
The basic message is that the intensity picks up so you have to raise your game.
”A guy like myself who is a younger-older guy, I listen. I soak everything up like a sponge,” Harrison said. ”I’m always picking brains and trying to get an idea of what something is like.”
Of course, Harrison then joked about his playoff experience, saying he has been to the postseason every year in video games.
”I just won a Super Bowl last night on Madden with the Green Bay Packers,” he quipped.
When asked if the defense was thinking Super Bowl on Friday, Harrison said no way.
”We’re talking about the Green Bay Packers. That’s it,” he said.
NOTES: Jason Pierre-Paul (sports hernia) was ruled out for the game while fellow DE Owa Odighizuwa (hamstring) is doubtful. … Giants coach Ben McAdoo refused to say whether Bobby Hart or Marshall Newhouse would start at RT on Sunday. Hart has played there almost the whole season, but he missed the final game of the regular season with a forearm injury. … Rookie RB Paul Perkins, who had his first 100-yard game last week, has never started a game in freezing temperatures. The forecast for Sunday at Lambeau Field is for 16 degrees. That’s a lot warmer than the temperatures in 1967 when his uncle Don Perkins played for Dallas in the Ice Bowl against the Packers. The wind chill made it feel like minus-48.
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