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James Harrison Considering Legal Action vs. NFL After Deflategate Ruling

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 8, 2015

Aug 23, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) breaks off of the line of scrimmage against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Players Association's successful appeal of Tom Brady's Deflategate suspension has opened the floodgates for current players who have bones to pick with the league. According to Bill Phillips of WPXI in Pittsburgh, Steelers linebacker James Harrison is mulling a lawsuit against the NFL.

"I'm just wondering how far they can go with it with the other guys that he suspended or fined at his discretion," Harrison said. "Hopefully there will be other guys that fight this and be able to fight them."

This comes after U.S. District Court Judge Richard Berman threw out the four-game ban the league levied against Brady for his suspected role in the Deflategate affair.

As ProFootballTalk's Josh Alper noted, Berman took particular exception to Commissioner Roger Goodell's role as judge, jury and executioner and his penchant for uneven punishments for players:

While discussing reasons why a judge could overturn an arbitrator's award under a collective bargaining agreement, Berman notes that an arbitrator "is not free to merely dispense his own brand of industrial justice." He also notes that the "law of the shop" in the NFL is for players to be made aware of prohibited conduct and potential discipline, something that Berman finds the NFL did not do in regard to Brady.

According to Phillips, Harrison is planning on talking with the NFLPA as to whether he has legal grounds for a lawsuit against Goodell and the NFL, similar to Brady's Deflategate suit.

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Harrison has taken issue with fines Goodell has imposed on him in the past for so-called "dirty" hits. Here's a snippet from an interview between Harrison and Paul Solotaroff in the August 2011 issue of Men's Journal in which the veteran linebacker explained his strong dislike for the commissioner:

When Harrison was summoned to league headquarters in November to meet with Goodell, NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson, and director of football operations Merton Hanks, he was made to watch a reel of his questionable hits plucked from four years as a starter. "They take 10 plays out of 4,000 snaps and want to know my thought process on each," he says. "What I tried to explain to Goodell, but he was too stupid to understand, is that dudes crouch when you go to hit them. With Massaquoi, my target area was his waist and chest, but he lowered himself at the last possible second and I couldn't adjust to his adjustment. But Goodell, who's a devil, ain't hearing that. Where's the damn discretion, the common sense?"

With Judge Berman calling Goodell's authority into question, you can understand why Harrison would want to explore whether he can receive monetary restitution for what may have been unfair fines.

The 37-year-old isn't the first player after Brady to consider the idea. ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio reported in August that Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy was thinking of following in Brady's footsteps and appealing his four-game suspension to start the 2015 season.

If Hardy or Harrison takes legal action against Goodell, it could embolden others to as well. And should that happen, Goodell's position as commissioner may become untenable.

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