In the wake of his $75,000 fine for a "devastating hit" delivered to Mohamed Massaquoi, Steelers linebacker James Harrison has said he is contemplating retirement.
"I'm going to sit down and have a serious conversation with my coach tomorrow and see if I can actually play by NFL rules and still be effective. If not, I may have to give up playing football."
Harrison's words may come across as bluster, but this morning he was excused from practice by Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
"'How can I continue to play this game the way that I've been taught to play this game since I was 10 years old?' Harrison said on Sirius XM Radio this morning. 'And now you're telling me that everything that they've taught me from that time on, for the last 20-plus years, is not the way you're supposed to play the game anymore. If that's the case I can't play by those rules. You're handicapping me.'"
It is hard not to agree with Harrison's logic, to an extent.
Nobody is going to fault the NFL for trying to protect their employees, especially given the increased risk athletes are at for serious risk head trauma on a weekly basis.
But taking money from players for doing their job, when the NFL does not provide health insurance for debilitated former players, is the height of hypocrisy. So it is also hard to fault Harrison for having these thoughts. Why would he choose to keep playing, knowing that his employer is going to keep fining him under the guise of protecting his co-worker's health, when he knows full-well that they really don't give a damn about his health.
Then again, James Harrison is also in need of a severe reality check.
He has a six-year, $51.2 million contract with $20 million in bonuses, signed in April 2009. He gets paid this absurd amount of money to play a game.
In all likelihood, James Harrison is just full of hot air. He is trying to get a point across, but he is not doing it in an effective manner.
Sure, James, we get it. You love the game and the NFL is progressively destroying it. Soon you think it will no longer be the same game you grew up loving. And if the game changes, then so does the joy in playing that game.
But it's still just a game. No athlete, ever, will get fans or the media on their side by taking this position, not when they're making that much money to play a game.
The only way James Harrison can come out of this with respect from NFL fans is to be true to his words and walk away from the game. Even then most will scoff at Harrison as foolish. Sure they'll credit him for being a man of his word and true to the game he loves, but he'll still be the fool that walked away from millions because he didn't like the direction the rules were going in.
He's really walked himself into a dead end, image wise. Either he is a "baby" for walking away when things didn't go his way or he is a foolish athlete who made a very clumsy attempt at making a point that alienates him from fans of the game.
At this point, Harrison better hope himself that he is full of nothing but hot air.
At least he'll have tens of millions of dollars.
All all he'll have to do to earn it is play a game.
And all he'll have to do to keep his employer from taking some of it from him in fines is try to not decapitate his coworkers as much.
Really, James, that isn't so bad. Millions of NFL fans would gladly take your place, if only they had your ability. Throwing that ability away in a hissy fit is a silly thing to do.