Steelers linebacker James Harrison became the poster boy for the league’s crackdown on helmet-to-helmet hits during the 2010 season, and now he’s using the platform of his presence at the Super Bowl to hit back at the league office.
Asked if he expects the owners to lock out the players next month, Harrison answered, “Yes.”
But on other subjects, especially the proposed expansion of the regular season to 18 games, he gave a lot more than one-word answers.
“I don’t think it is a good thing if you’re worried about player safety,” Harrison said of the 18-game season. “It’s nothing about player safety. It’s about them making money.”
Harrison praised Steelers owner Dan Rooney for bucking the trend of NFL owners and siding with the players who want to keep the regular season at 16 games.
“The biggest thing that hurt them was when Mr. Rooney came out and said he would rather it stay at 16 games and that he doesn’t need the money,” Harrison said. “He’s the main voice and most respected voice among the owners. He came out and said exactly what it is. It’s about them making money. It’s not about us. With them talking about player safety and all this fine stuff, that’s just a show to make them look better. It’s something to give the people to look at and have them think that they are trying to do something positive.”
Asked whether he knows of any player in the league who supports an 18-game season, Harrison said, “No. Nobody wants to go 18 games. It’s not conducive to being healthy. It’s not conducive to player safety they say they’re so worried about.”
Harrison also pointed out that he’s been fined for hits that weren’t even penalized on the field, and that there’s seeming inconsistency about which hits draw flags, which hits draw fines, which hits draw both and which hits draw neither.
“If you’re going to call that on me, call it across the board,” Harrison said. “Each week, there are 30-40 guys who are doing the same thing and it’s not called as a penalty or fine. Just call it straight across the board.”