Harrison And Foote: Putting the "I" in Linebacker

Mimi McCannCorrespondent IMay 17, 2009

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 01:  Linebackers James Harrison #92 and Larry Foote #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers line up on defense against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Steelers won 27-23.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Just under four months ago, we were seeing footage of another great Steeler team bringing home a sixth Lombardi. They called themselves a "band of brothers," and their unity was evident, as they all worked as a team to reach their lofty goal.

So this spring, I was shocked to hear the report that Larry Foote wanted out of Pittsburgh. Yes, an employee's work environment is so important to their happiness, but it seemed that Foote had it all.

Foote was reportedly well-liked by his Steeler team mates. He and Farrior went through their pre-game drills with synchronized precision; they looked to be genuine friends, and such a bond doesn't form in every job.

Of course, other elements play into career satisfaction; one that can create a disgruntled employee is bad management. Having spent my life working for family-owned organizations, I know that family businesses may be quirky, but again and again, the Steeler-owning Rooneys are cited as a clan that conducts their business in an exemplary fashion.

What on earth could have possessed Larry Foote to decide to force his way out of Pittsburgh just one year after digging in to fight for his starting job as the Steelers' mack linebacker?

I am left only with my best guess as to why he would choose to free-fall from the top team in the league to the bottom of the pile. I can only point to family priorities as the reason that Foote would target Detroit as a work destination, as Motown is the man's hometown.

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Good luck to him. He did well as a Steeler, and I will really miss seeing him in the lineup. I am sure the rest of Pittsburgh will miss him as well; I have read enough reports that indicate that the Steelers wanted him to remain in Pittsburgh already.

I think that the move was motivated by Foote's personal interest. It is a hard fact that the shelf life of an athlete's productivity is a short one. Time will tell the entire story, but I think that Foote underestimated the value of being a part of a strong team. He wants more playing time for himself and he will get it, but at what cost?

Meanwhile, James Harrison spent this offseason in pursuit of a contract that will secure his position as the Steelers' outside linebacker for the next several years. He knew his value to the Steelers, and he was rightly rewarded in the form of a large stack of bills.

The Rooneys' team had extended multiple opportunities to Harrison, and Harrison had delivered, elevating his level of play to become the first undrafted player to win Defensive Player of the Year.

But now James is back in the news regarding his decision to opt out of the visit to the White House, an honor bestowed to the Super Bowl champions on an annual basis. Citing the lack of special distinction that prompts the visit and the fact that if the Cardinals would have won that they would have gone, Harrison will do what he did the last time the Steelers visited the White House: stay home.

Now, convictions are a personal matter, and I respect that people live by their own code, but I would like to know if James Harrison also refused the two giant diamond-studded hunks of hardware that the Steelers got as a result of their victories.

The Super Bowl ring, like the White House visit, is an honor, bestowed every year on the winner of the game. Yes, like the visit to the White House, had the Cardinals won the Super Bowl, they would be receiving rings.  

With the magnitude of winning a Super Bowl comes a multitude of honors bestowed on the winning team. Receiving an enormous jewel-encrusted memento is one of many rewards. I sincerely doubt, however, that Harrison considered passing up this honor in order to uphold his rock-solid conviction that the Steelers should be the only team to be distinguished in this manner.

Given the Rooneys' relationship with Obama, I do not feel that it should be a difficult decision for Harrison to join his team for a visit to the White House. A true professional sucks it up and tows the party line now and then in order to present a united front to the world. How much more should this be the case in the pinnacle of world of competitive team sports, the NFL?

I am sad to see any division on the team that I so admire. We have already lost Foote because he felt himself more valuable than what was deemed by his coaches. My only hope that James Harrison may give some more thought to what it means for a high profile player to opt out of a high-profile team event.   


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