There Could Be Another Reason James Harrison Isn’t Finding Work

Goodell and HarrisonIt was a hard pill to swallow for many Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans when James Harrison was released a few weeks ago. Harrison was the epitome of what the Pittsburgh Steelers have long been on the defensive side of the ball. Besides an NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award he also authored one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history when he returned an interception 100 yards as time expired in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII.

The other side of Harrison of course is the darker one that includes being the target and poster child for Roger Goodell’s personal assault on violence in the game of football. He did nothing to diminish that image after an interview with Men’s Journal quoted Harrison as saying “If Goodell were on fire he wouldn’t piss on him to put it out.”

Harrison actually made it through the 2012 season without enduring the wrath of the league office when he went without a fine. For a guy that battled knee and back injuries heading into the season, he actually got better week in and week out as the season rolled on as he finished with six sacks. The bad news however was that for the third straight year, his QB pressures were down to the point where he was becoming ineffective on the pass rush.

This off-season, the Steelers apparently offered Harrison a chance to stay with them but with a cut of 30% of his salary. Believing he could do better on the open market, Harrison and his agent decided to say ‘no’ and so the Steelers released the latest iconic linebacker.

Harrison is still unemployed at the time of this writing and I believe there are three reasons why. The first two are obvious.

Harrison is 35 years of age and this is not exactly an age where many NFL players flourish let alone at the position of linebacker. Secondly, Harrison’s injury history isn’t just a few pulled hamstrings and some banged up fingers. He has fought both knee and back injuries for the better part of the last three to four years. These two reasons alone are enough to keep teams away until they get desperate later this summer when injuries and retirements start to take shape.

The other reason he is still without work is the one that I know people are considering but just aren’t saying. Is it possible that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has somehow instructed teams not to employ James Harrison? Don’t laugh and don’t say that’s BS either. It wouldn’t be the first time a commissioner or a group of owners colluded to keep a player or coach from staying or getting back into a particular league.

Look at Goodell’s angle before you doubt this. At a time when the owners just passed yet another rule limiting the violence of the game (banning of running backs using the crown of their helmets) what better time to keep his own personal punching bag in James Harrison out of football for good. Goodell has not spoken publicly as to what he thought of Harrison’s comments in the Men’s Journal article but privately we have been told he was less then thrilled and I certainly wouldn’t blame him.

This allows Goodell to continue taking the high road in regards to how he feels about Harrison and also keeps the former all-pro out of professional football forever. Goodell is not an idiot contrary to popular belief. There is a reason he was named commissioner by the owners and it had to do with two things; making them money and cleaning up the game. The latter in response to the pending lawsuit brought by former players regarding their care after football.

The owners believe Goodell and his minions in the league office are just the guys to handle the changing of the game from a violent, defensive ordeal to a much more high-scoring, offensive showcase. Bigger than that however is the money. The NFL has never been more popular. The NFL Draft has more viewers than the NBA Playoffs and the Pro Bowl, which everyone loathes, draws more viewers than any of the other all-star games. This means that James Harrison is but a Styrofoam cup floating in a sea of much bigger and more important financial things for Goodell and his owners.

My guess is that ultimately a team may ring James Harrison’s phone but the monetary offer he’ll be given will more than likely be insulting. If I had to bet, I’d guess that Harrison wishes he took the cut the Steelers offered him because I doubt he or his agent put much thought into what I’ve raised here. I’ve been wrong many times before, but let’s face it. Would anything Goodell does surprise you?

Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.

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14 comments on “There Could Be Another Reason James Harrison Isn’t Finding Work

  1. Well I for one hope that both sides put away their “pride” because I would like to see Harrison back. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that his agent did him a disservice. It also didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that first of all the Steelers don’t play around in contract negotiations, and secondly considering Harrison’s age and health situation he’ d NEVER even get the lesser money that the Steelers offered him let alone the full salary from another team. Geeze I wonder if I can get in on that gig and be Harrison’s agent…. at least I’d convey to him a realistic view of his market value.

    • Thanks for reading Rick. It’s easy to criticize Harrison for being greedy and I certainly did because I thought the going would be tough for him in free agency but I think you’re right about his agent. I think he did Harrison a disservice making him believe he’d do better or at least the same on the market.

    • Thanks for reading… I really think James was steered the wrong way by his agent. I can’t believe he wants to finish his career anywhere but in Pittsburgh and I’m hopeful he will sign with us some time this summer at a much lower rate.

  2. I have to agree that there is a perception about James Harrison that many teams may not want to deal with. I said it a few weeks ago when it looked like he and the Steelers would not be able to reach an agreement that Harrison and his agent had not asked around the league to see just what Harrison’s value would be. I agree with you that he comes with baggage and it isn’t just injury and age.

  3. Roger Goodell sucks and the fans watching the draft should be surveyed this guy gonna water down the greatest game in the world a game ment to simulate battle between men is starting to resemble a beauty pagent in fact the pagent girls may have a huge advantage in coming years they will be drafted 1st round for their ability to play in pumps which may be Goodells next rule if everybody wears pumps no one will be able to move fast enough to inflict any harm and let it be known that there are at least two people in the world that wouldn’t piss on that fool if he were a blazing inferno.

    • Thanks for reading Gary. While I understand why Goodell is doing what he is, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. This latest rule about RB’s leading with the crown of the helmet isn’t as big a deal as many are making it. The problem is that it is yet another small step towards limiting and ultimately ending the violence of the game that we have grown up with…

  4. I think it’s absurd to suggest that Goodell “instructed” teams to not hire Harrison. If he WAS his “personal punching bag” wouldn’t it make more sense to keep him around to use as an example of what’s wrong with the game? Maybe teams are staying away b/c he’s an old, beaten down piece of crap who refuses to adapt and adjust to the game? He’s a tank, but rather than TACKLE a guy he states that since he can’t aim at your head in order to injure you, he HAS to aim at your knees in order to “take you down” (injure). The league wants you to “target” the body, Harrison insists he can only target the head or the knees, the two weakest parts. Why? B/c he’s not big enough and strong enough to take you down the right way? No, his goal is not to stop the ball-carrier, that’s what tackling is for, his goal is and always has been to injure. The game is better off without him.

    • Thanks for reading neptune… Goodell would want his punching bag off the field because he knows the one thing that would punish Harrison more than any fine or suspension is to keep him from playing…

      Let me ask you this, when Jack Lambert or Chuck Bednarik or Dick Butkus were playing would you have said the game was better without them? These men made no bones that they were playing to hit you hard enough to take you out of the game. Secondly, how can you say he hasn’t adjusted? He wasn’t fined once last year and didn’t even have a tackle that was questioned by league officials.

      He’s not big enough and strong enough to take you down the right way? Seriously?

      If he can’t go at your head, which he shouldn’t and he can’t go at the knees then that leaves a very small area where he can tackle. Keep in mind the person he is tackling is moving and doesn’t exactly line himself up to be hit. What should he or any other tackler do?

      I can’t say for certain that Goodell wants to keep Harrison out of the NFL, but why would it surprise anyone? He can’t keep preaching ‘player safety’ if the poster child for his movement is still on the field.

  5. I don’t buy reason 3 unless Goodell is a 10 yr old. Why
    Would he give a crap what Harrison said about him?
    If he allows words to hurt him, he’s more of an idiot than I
    Originally thought.

    • I’m suggesting that there is collusion among the owners to keep Harrison out of the game for his comments related to Goodell. It could have very well been sent down by Roger himself but either way would this surprise you? Can’t keep making the game safer if enemy #1 is still playing.

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