There’s a good chance New England Patriots outside linebacker James Harrison suits up and plays Sunday. It is less likely that would happen if Harrison still was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s pretty simple why Harrison is a member of the Patriots and not the Steelers entering Week 17. He wants to play. At 39 years old, Harrison went through six weeks of grueling, hot training camp. He attended hundreds of hours of meetings. He practiced for 16 weeks. And all he got in return was 40 snaps.
Many retired NFL players have said if they could skip everything that goes along with football, they’d still play in games. They love the sport and grow to hate everything that goes along with it. Harrison got the opposite from the Steelers, and according to his account, the Steelers kept promising him playing time that never came. It was a nightmare situation for an old, legendary pro.
If we currently were talking about some 25-year-old journeyman, then the sequence of events that got Harrison cut would be inexcusable. Harrison says he continuously asked to be released. Reports out of Pittsburgh had him sleeping through meetings and skipping practices.
Say the latter is true, which we don’t know. After all, Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree said Harrison didn’t visit Ryan Shazier at the hospital and didn’t help rookie T.J. Watt. We know those to be heavily exaggerated. So, it’s entirely possible everything coming out of Pittsburgh is being over-exaggerated.
But, yeah, say Harrison really did force his way out of Pittsburgh by being a jerk. I don’t care. And I didn’t care when Martellus Bennett did the same thing back in November.
NFL players get so few opportunities to stick it to the man. NFL players don’t receive fully guaranteed contracts. They are the ones putting their bodies on the line and getting less than 50 percent of total NFL revenue. It is entirely understandable to be a mercenary.
The Steelers didn’t play Harrison because they wanted to give their snaps to Dupree, Watt and Anthony Chickillo. They finally released Harrison, and the only team that came calling was the Patriots. So, Harrison is going to put all those months of work to good use by playing for the Patriots.
It sucks for Steelers fans. Harrison is one of the best players in franchise history. And now he’s entering a playoff run with one of the team’s biggest rivals.
But Harrison only re-signed with the Steelers because he thought he would play. Those were the terms of his contract, but he couldn’t get out of it, because the NFL and its teams have all the power. Harrison wouldn’t have signed if he knew he wasn’t going to play. It’s entirely possible Harrison would have instead signed with a team that isn’t considered one of the Steelers’ biggest rivals. But the Patriots needed edge help, and their season is about to continue. So, it was the best fit.
And this is now the third time this season, including Bennett and wide receiver Kenny Britt, the Patriots have signed a player who forced his way out of a bad situation. There’s no reason to feel guilty about it.
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