Dirty Harry able to make sudden impact
He will forever be known in Broncos Country as Dirty Harry, the man who tried to end the NFL career of cornerback Chris Harris and lived to laugh about it after a 13-10 victory by Tennessee that left Denver spitting mad.
His name is Harry Douglas, a 32-yearold wide receiver for Tennessee. He pulled a sleeveless T-shirt over his muscular shoulders as we stood together Sunday afternoon in the Titans’ locker room, then chastised television cameras for interrupting our chat by shooting video without his permission.
“I have on a wife-beater,” explained Douglas, nodding at his ribbed, white shirt.
He tried to beat the crud out of Harris with a vicious helmet-to-knee shot, and refused to apologize.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt him,” said Douglas, who insisted he looked the
Denver cornerback square in the eye during the play that nearly started a riot. “Chris Harris had been loafing on the play. That’s what happened. I play to the whistle. We looked at each other, head up. Yeah, he saw me. He was just loafing. Don’t loaf.”
In Colorado, Douglas is now Football Enemy No. 1.
“He tried to do something dirty, so that’s why I’m going to beat his (butt),” said Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib, who administered his own vigilante justice on Douglas as they wrestled in front of the Titans’ bench at Nissan Stadium.
In New York City, the NFL office will have to fine Douglas for a vicious chop block delivered in the second quarter, or lose any credibility when talking about the importance of player safety.
“I ain’t never had a player who just tried to end my career like that,” Harris said. “That was dirty. He should be fined. Football? That’s not football.”
In the Broncos’ locker room, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe offered to send his home address to Douglas so the veteran Titans receiver could drop by whenever it’s convenient to settle this dispute like two cavemen.
“I’m a tough player. I’m a gritty player,” Douglas said. “I’m not a dirty player. I don’t care what anybody says. I’ve never been a dirty player.”
Sorry, I ain’t buying it. Douglas hit Harris with the very definition of a cheap shot with a little more than three minutes remaining in the second quarter. On the very next snap, after Harris had limped to the sideline,Talib stood up for his teammate by going medieval on Douglas with anger that drew universal praise from chest-thumping Denver fans but also a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty that pushed the Titans into easy field-goal range.
Those who trade in macho malarkey will insist Talib’s tantrum woke up the Broncos and turned the game’s momentum. But let’s keep it real. You want vengeance? That’s cool. But don’t seek payback right in front of the cops. A 19-play, 74-yard Tennessee drive was boosted by the Talib’s knucklehead penalty and capped by a 41-yard field goal by Ryan Succop, which staked the Titans to a 13-0 halftime lead with a kick that ultimately proved to be the difference in the final score.
“We had a play earlier in the game where (Talib) took a cheap shot on me. I didn’t say nothing. I didn’t get mad. But he got mad about the Chris Harris situation. And he tried to come at me? Yeah. That’s football,” Douglas told me. “Some people know how to keep their composure and be a pro. Some people don’t.”
Yes, I believed Broncos coach Gary Kubiak when he vowed that the champs won’t go down without a fight.
“From the outside looking in, a lot of people are going to say it doesn’t look good. I’ve been part of a (heck) of lot worse and come out of it. We’re going to keep battling,” Kubiak said.
After getting punched in the mouth by a Tennessee offense about a subtle as a lead pipe, which bludgeoned the Denver defense with 42 rushes for 180 yards, the Broncos are stuck with five losses on their résumé. They face a daunting remaining December schedule, against New England, Kansas City and Oakland, whose aggregate record is 30-8. There’s nothing reliable in Kubiak’s offensive playbook except something that appears to be drawn in the dirt, with quarterback Trevor Siemian scrambling for his life while praying that Demaryius Thomas finds a way to get open.
Know what really hurts? In a game the Broncos really, really, really needed to win, the defending Super Bowl champions instead lost their identity.
Nobody in the NFL fears Denver any longer.
“I know we’re a physical team. I don’t know about them. I know what we are. I know our identity. That’s the way we play the game,” Douglas said. “And if you don’t like it, quit football.”
How sweet would it be to see the Broncos back in Tennessee for a rematch with Dirty Harry in the NFL playoffs? Now that would make my day.