As James Harrison’ agent tries to put the toothpaste back in the tube, Harrison has dropped a bowling ball on it.
In an Instragram post addressing the reaction to Harrison’s claim that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gave Harrison “an envelope” after Harrison was fined $75,000 for an illegal hit in 2010, Harrison angrily pushes back against the reaction to his comments. In so doing, Harrison never says that Tomlin actually didn’t give him an envelope; if anything, Harrison’s latest comments confirm it.
“Wow y’all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!?” Harrison said. “Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY!
“If you knew the full story of what happened back then you’d know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn’t even penalized during the game. The league was getting pressure because the first concussion lawsuits were starting and they had to look like they cared about player safety all of a sudden. Before that they had been SELLING a photo of THAT SAME PLAY FOR $55 on the NFL website with other videos of the NFL’S GREATEST HITS that the league Profited On back then.
“When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of. EVERYBODY knew it — even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they’d be rewarded for anything like that. GTFOH with that BS!!! #receipts.”
Harrison’s comments underscore the mindset that existed in 2010, as the NFL (voluntarily or not) became more concerned about player health and safety. Plenty of players and coaches believed that the fines and flags for illegal hits to the head and/or neck of defenseless players amounted to “BS,” and that the sudden urgency to eradicate hits that previously had been celebrated was hypocritical.
Tomlin, as Harrison explains it, wasn’t paying Harrison for incapacitating an opponent. Tomlin was compensating Harrison for a “BS fine” imposed by the league for a legal play. It’s very easy to justify the gesture, if coach and player are convinced that the league is out of line.
So while the envelope wasn’t part of a bounty program, it violated the rules — and it incentivized Harrison and other Steelers players to continue to play the way they were being coached to play, if the league office was intent on meting out “BS fines” for hits the Steelers deemed to be legal.
Arguably, this is even worse than the bounty scandal. The Saints (and other teams) rewarded players for clean, legal hits that sent opponents to the sideline. There was no evidence that the Saints rewarded players for illegal hits.
Tomlin, if Harrison is telling the truth, replaced part or all of the money lost by Harrison for playing the game the way Tomlin believes (or at least believed) it should be played, in defiance of the league office.
Still, look for the league to do nothing. Even as Harrison makes it more and more clear that the rules were broken. And if Tomlin did it as to Harrison’s $75,000 fine in 2010, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether other players who absorbed “BS fines” for hits that Tomlin believed to be legal received similar envelopes.