Former Pittsburgh Steelers, now New England Patriots, linebacker James Harrison is finally telling his side of the story.
In an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, just one day after Harrison signed with the Patriots, the veteran linebackers said he asked the Steelers on three separate occasions to release him. One of those requests reportedly came near the beginning of the season after he had figured out that he wasn’t likely to receive as much playing time as he was initially promised.
“I have to assume when they say you’re going to get 25 percent of the snaps and you get 25, safe to say things didn’t go as planned,” Harrison reportedly said, according to Gerry Dulac.
“After the first week of the season, I said to them, it’s clear you want to play your younger guys and I understand, so why don’t you release me. You go on your way and I’ll go on mine. They said, ‘No, no, no, we got a role for you.’ ”
The Steelers loss to the Patriots a few weeks ago was apparently the proverbial straw that broke Harrison’s back as according to him, he was told he would see playing time in that game. While he was active for that game, Harrison didn’t play a single snap.
“If I didn’t play in the biggest game of the year, that told me I wouldn’t get any more snaps. So all that lip service you gave me before didn’t matter,” Harrison reportedly said.
The linebacker then claims he asked head coach Mike Tomlin to release him again after that game and was essentially told that would be a ludicrous thing to do in case injuries at the outside linebacker position ultimately happened. As everyone knows by now, Harrison was eventually waived this past Saturday.
Harrison went on to claim that he did have some hesitation about signing with the Patriots and that he even consulted some with Steelers linebackers coach Joey Porter prior to doing so.
“I explained the situation to him and he said, ‘I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to do something when you’re making a business decision,’ “ Harrison said of his talk with Porter. “I made a decision based on what was best for me.”
It was obvious that Harrison had been disgruntled with his role with the team for some time and that he ultimately took matters in his own hands in order to get himself out of Pittsburgh. Those matters, according now to several of his now former teammates, included him missing several meetings, among other things.
Since Harrison’s release and ultimate signing with the Patriots, his former teammates have decided not to hold back any longer with their feeling on the matter. On the surface, Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree and center Maurkice Pouncey have been the most vocal with their opinions of Harrison and how he’s acted all season. In short, they, along with several other teammates, apparently viewed him as a detriment to the team for at least several weeks and maybe longer.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of all about how things were with Harrison as a teammate this season. It will now be interesting to see how Tomlin ultimately responds to questions he’s sure to get about Harrison after the Steelers Sunday game against the Cleveland Browns.
In my opinion, if Harrison was that unhappy about his role for as long as he has claimed he was, the Steelers should have parted ways with him several weeks ago. It will now be interesting to see how the rest of Harrison’s season plays out with the Patriots and especially if his new team ultimately plays his former team in the AFC Championship game.