PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – James Harrison has broken his silence about what led to him signing with the New England Patriots.
In a statement posted to Instagram, Harrison said he didn’t sign a two-year deal to sit on the bench and collect a paycheck.
“If anybody thought I 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,” Harrison said. “I didn’t sign up to sit on the bench and be a cheerleader.”
In his statement, Harrison said he was clear about his intentions to be on the field for the Steelers when he signed. He also said the team told him he would play as well. However, he said he was only given “lip service” in training camp.
“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,” Harrison said.
Harrison said he asked to be released when it was clear that he didn’t have a role with the team.
“At the beginning of the season, when it was clear I didn’t have a role anymore, I asked to be released. Throughout the season, I was told week in and out that I’d be used. I wasn’t. I started getting frustrated about the whole thing,” he said.
On one occasion, Harrison said he got plenty of reps during the week, which he believed would lead to him getting on the field in a game.
“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,” he said. “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.”
A few days later, Harrison was released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He signed with the Patriots earlier this week.
“Then a few days later, they released me. I was never told I would be brought back, it was: if I bring [you] back, be in shape. I cleared waivers, and they didn’t call. New England called,” Harrison said.
Harrison’s ended the statement by saying it was a business decision to go to New England.
“Maybe I didn’t handle my frustration the best that I could’ve. 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,” Harrison said.
Fans have been divided over the situation, while several teammates have offered their opinions as well.
Center Maurkice Pouncey claims claiming that the 39-year-old linebacker had wanted out of Pittsburgh for some time.
“He erased his own legacy here,” Pouncey said. “It’s funny to read the stories. It’s something he wanted to do. It’s not like [the Steelers] got together and said, ‘Oh, we’re going to go cut James.’ That’s not what happened, and he needs to come out and admit that.”
Bud Dupree weighed in on Twitter, saying that people assuming Harrison is a victim “need to fall off a cliff of get the facts.”
Everybody acting like Debo a victim y’all need to fall off a cliff or get the facts!
— Big Bud (@Bud_Dupree) December 27, 2017
Should the Patriots and Steelers meet in the playoffs, this will no doubt be a major storyline.