As a Ravens fan, I’m not supposed to like James Harrison. However, he is a great linebacker and defensive leader and I do like him. I’m pretty sure that this controversy about his comments about teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall is mostly hyperbole. There will be no friction, there will be no distraction when training camp starts. Here are some observations:
1. If Ben Roethlisberger can’t handle being called out for his subpar playoff play, then he’s not mentally tough enough to be the quarterback for the team with the most rings and arguably the most passionate fanbase. Ben’s matured greatly since his first Super Bowl win, when he was reportedly criticized by Joey Porter in the locker room right afterward for how Roethlisberger treated the team the whole year. The ultimate harmlessness of the comments doesn’t exonerate what Harrison said but it should calm fans down.
2. While I don’t believe his words were twisted, attitude and humor don’t always translate to the page. When he said that about Roethlisberger, perhaps it was with a “c’mon, man” I-still-love-you-but-you-can’t-make-that-play attitude.
3. It mostly doesn’t matter how long ago the interview was. Some fans might excuse his criticism if it was the day after the Super Bowl but not if it was last week. I think if it was last week, it’s actually a good sign because he still has that grudge against the Packers on his mind.
4. Rashard Mendenhall was a better running back in the playoffs than James Harrison was a linebacker. The “fumble machine” – the name Harrison called Mendenhall – did fumble twice in the playoffs but the Super Bowl fumble was justifiable. Could he have gone down? Maybe. However, the passing game was not clicking and – whether it be players, coaches or both – I’m sure he was getting positive responses for his tenacious effort from the start of the playoffs on. To then tell him he needs to go down faster sends mixed messages. Harrison had an alright playoffs but a quiet Super Bowl.
5. I hope Harrison keeps this up. It certainly seemed a little hypocritical for Harrison – who should have been ejected late in Super Bowl XLIII for pinning down Aaron Francisco and punching him – to be giving anyone directions on how to help your team win a Super Bowl. I love that James Harrison is a throwback player. He being cut a few times by the Ravens seemed to add a little to the rivalry. I want him to keep talking and I’ll be ticked if Goodell fines or even warns him. I hope there is some chatter from him and Terrell Suggs leading up to the week 1 match-up. Why try to hinder one of the only truly great rivalries in the NFL?