New England Patriots outside linebacker James Harrison released a statement on Instagram on Friday, responding to criticism from former Pittsburgh Steelers teammates.
Saying it would be his only comment, Harrison wrote that if anybody thought he “signed a two-year deal with a team in the NFL at age 39 to sit on the bench and collect a check and a participation trophy, they’re mistaken.”
“When I was asking for reps in camp, I got none. I got lip service though: We know what you can do — you don’t need the reps. But I know what my body needs in order to be in shape to compete, and I said so, but still zero reps.
“At the beginning of the season, when it was clear I didn’t have a role any more, I asked to be released. Throughout the season, I was told week in & out that I’d be used. I wasn’t. I started getting frustrated about the whole thing. I asked to not be dressed or take unnecessary practice reps if I wasn’t going to play. That’s what happened for a [couple] weeks, then we had a game week that I got reps in practice and everyone assumed I would play. I got to the stadium four hours early as usual, and my locker was empty. Nobody said anything to me about being inactive, just an empty locker. I asked to be released again. I was told no.
“A couple weeks later, they dress me for the game so I assume I’m going to play, and I get zero reps. Stood on the sideline the whole game. I asked to be released again, I was told no. Then a few days later, they released me.”
Harrison then detailed how he landed with the Patriots, signing a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday.
“I was never told I would be brought back, it was: If I bring [you] back, be in shape. I cleared waivers [Monday] and they didn’t call. New England called.”
Harrison has received plenty of criticism from his former Steelers teammates for signing with the Patriots.
“He erased his own legacy here, let’s be serious,” Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. “It’s crazy. It blows my mind.”
“If you didn’t want to be here, come out and say it. Don’t make it look like it’s the team’s fault. … You think the team and the organization wanted to get rid of James Harrison? Come on, now. If I wanted out, I wouldn’t let the team take the blame for it.”
Outside linebacker Bud Dupree also blasted Harrison.
“I don’t know how many secrets about the playbook Harrison could give them because I never saw him in meetings,” Dupree said during an interview on 93.7 the fan.
Dupree said that Harrison showed no interest in mentoring him or rookie linebacker T.J. Watt.
“I don’t want the media to portray that we’re the reason he left. That ain’t the reason. He chose to leave. He made certain decisions, and his actions got him to this circumstance.”
According to an ESPN report, Harrison went to great lengths to get himself released.
Players witnessed Harrison sleeping in a recliner during position meetings and snoring loudly while outside linebackers coach Joey Porter tried to teach, the source said. Sometimes, Harrison would skip meetings altogether, and when he missed practices for various injuries, player suspicions would rise when Harrison conducted his famous power-lifting sessions the same week or day, the source said.
Harrison left the building at random times, would leave stadiums before or during games on days he was inactive and told teammates he was trying to get traded, released or placed on Injured Reserve, the source said.
One source said Harrison exhibited the behavior throughout the season, but players really started to notice Harrison checking out on game days after a Week 4 win over the Ravens.
Bill Parise, Harrison’s agent, said Saturday that the parting was amicable, but Harrison was “clearly” frustrated over his role in the defense.
However, Harrison did acknowledge he might have made some missteps in Pittsburgh.
“Maybe I didn’t handle my frustration the best that I could’ve,” he wrote on Instagram. “If you haven’t learned anything about me over the last 16 years, I’m a competitor to my core. I live and breathe competition. I do what it takes to keep my body and my mind ready to be on that field.
“I do it for me, I do it for my family, I do it for my team and I do it for the fans. Nothing else to it. At the end of the day, they made a business decision, and so did I.”