James Harrison is a highly decorated linebacker/edge rusher in this league. He was cut three times before finally sticking with the Steelers and rewarded their faith by winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and helping lead them to a Super Bowl victory over the Cardinals, including what is arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history where he weaved through a bunch of blocks as he took an interception 100 yards to the house to close out the first half. He’s a Steelers legend and deserves to be recognized as such. So when he was cut by the Steelers after last week having barely played this season due to decline in performance, nobody really reacted and it appeared that the 39 year-old may ride off into the sunset. Except he signed with the Patriots just days later. Then the skeletons in the closet started turning up. The responses weren’t very favorable towards the future Hall of Famer.
Here are a few quotes from some of Harrison’s former Steelers teammates regarding his departure and subsequent signing with the Patriots:
“He erased his own legacy”-Maurkice Pouncey, Steelers Center
“He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance”-Bud Dupree, Steelers Linebacker/Edge Rusher
“I guess (New England) was where he wanted to be”-Artie Burns, Steelers Cornerback
The story goes that Harrison was not happy with his diminished role with the Steelers. He apparently had been repeatedly asking for his release for weeks early in the season. Allegedly, he would start doing certain things to essentially try and force the Steelers to release him, such as skip team meetings (which Dupree went about at length), sleep in a recliner and snore loudly when he did attend meetings, and some teammates suspected he would even fake injuries. There was also talk about his refusal to take fellow outside backers Bud Dupree and TJ Watt under his wing in a mentor role. That’s not as big an issue for me, surprisingly enough. I get the sentiment that you pass on your knowledge to your teammates. But think about why Harrison was in this situation. He wants to play a big part for his team. If he were to teach Dupree and Watt what he knows, then they may be able to surpass him on the depth chart, which would hurt his chances to play. In the end, it ultimately didn’t matter because despite his lack of willingness to mentor these guys, they still wound up usurping a lot of playing time from him. Some people may see it as selfish, but I think that can be forgiven, since it’s this man’s livelihood. At least, I can forgive him for it, anyway.
If these reports are true, then this is pretty childish behavior by Harrison. I get being unhappy in your role, but to disrupt the locker room because you’re not happy about how much you’re playing is something my 10 year-old godson wouldn’t even do. This is a 39 year-old man whose workout regimen is the stuff of legend. Just look at some of these workouts.
He could probably floss his teeth with my spine. Yet he was allegedly acting like a spoiled brat in order to get released, which he was finally granted after the season was almost over. Now again, these claims and reports haven’t been 100% confirmed, as Harrison has been pretty mum over the whole situation. I’d like to get a chance to hear his side of the situation because he’s been getting thrown under the bus left and right over all this.
Well now Harrison is a member of the New England Patriots. So how does he fit in? Well a lot of people think that Bill Belichick wanted to bring him in to get some intel on the Steelers. Bud Dupree seems to think otherwise, as he is quoted as saying “I don’t know how many secrets about the playbook Harrison could give to the Patriots because I never saw him in meetings.” I have to agree with Dupree on this one, not necessarily because of the lack of attendance at meetings, which we still don’t know the whole gist of, but because I can’t imagine Belichick needing to bring in Harrison to beat the Steelers, something the Patriots already did a couple weeks ago (albeit under questionable circumstances). I think Harrison was brought on for two reasons: depth at the edge position and he’s a talented player that comes at a low risk. The Patriots really only have Trey Flowers, Eric Lee, and Deatrich Wise at the end position right now. Flowers is a good player but Lee was on the Bills practice squad earlier this year and Wise is a fourth round rookie who has admittedly shown a lot of promise. Harrison, while certainly past his prime, can be that added thump the Patriots defense may need. He also comes at a low risk, as the Patriots will only need to pay him about $59K for his services (one game check). If he doesn’t pan out, then you just don’t play him and you’re in the same situation you were in before you signed him, which has admittedly been pretty solid since a disastrous start to the year. Also, Harrison’s hatred for Roger Goodell will make him instantly beloved amongst the Patriots faithful, as he has gone on record as saying “If he were on fire, I wouldn’t piss on him to put him out.” He’ll fit in nicely.
So really, to answer the question of why people are so mad at Harrison right now doesn’t necessarily seem to be because he was released then signed against your top competition to go to the Super Bowl, but rather how he got himself in that situation. Again, we don’t truly know what happened behind closed doors and we haven’t heard Harrison’s side of the story yet, so I’m going to wait on judgment until after I hear a little bit more. But what we have now is a pretty bad look. That’s it for today’s blog, let me know what you think of the James Harrison situation in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.