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On the evening of Dec. 26, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was officially signed by the New England Patriots, which was met with criticism from Steelers fans and personnel alike. It did not take long for Pittsburgh to go from loving to hating the feared linebacker. Steelers' center Maurkice Pouncey even claimed the 39-year-old "erased his own legacy" with the franchise. Now, Harrison is firing back.
Harrison took to Instagram to post a lengthy response to all of the critics of his recent move over to the Patriots' roster with the caption, "This will be my only statement."
The post, separated into four photos, reads:
"If anybody thought I signed a two year deal with a team at age 39 to sit on the bench and collect a check and a participation trophy, they’re mistaken. I didn’t sign up to sit on the bench and be a cheerleader. I was clear about that when I signed, and I was told I would be on the field when I signed. When I was asking for reps in camp, I got none. I got lip service though: We know what you can do — you don’t need the reps. But I know what my body needs in order to be in shape to compete, and I said so, but still zero reps."
"At the beginning of the season, when it was clear I didn’t have a role anymore, I asked to be released. Throughout the season, I was told week in and week out that I’d be used. I wasn’t. I started getting frustrated about the whole thing. I asked not to be dressed or take unnecessary practice reps if I wasn’t going to play. That’s what happened for a [couple] weeks, then we had a game week that I got solid reps in practice and everyone assumed I’d play. I got to the stadium four hours early as usual, and my locker was empty. Nobody said anything to me about being inactive, just an empty locker. I asked to be released, and again was told no."
"A couple weeks later, they dress me for the game so I assume I’m going to play, and I get zero reps. Stood on the sideline the whole game. I asked to be released again, I was told no. Then a few days later, they released me. I was never told I would be brought back, it was: If I bring [you] back, be in shape. I cleared waivers, and they didn’t call. New England called. Also, to be clear, ask Ryan [Shazier] if I came to see him in the hospital. I didn’t help Bud [Dupree] or T.J. [Watt]? Ask TJ if I helped him."
"Maybe I didn’t handle my frustration the best that I could’ve. If you haven’t learned anything about me over the last 16 years, I’m a competitor to my core. I live and breathe competition. I do what it takes to keep my body and my mind ready to be on that field. I do it for me, I do it for my family, I do it for my team and I do it for the fans. Nothing else to it. At the end of the day, they made a business decision and so did I."
While it is common for players and fans to move on from liking a player once they move on from a team, the drastic dislike and slight hatred of Harrison is still slightly alarming. Maybe Steelers Nation was triggered when they saw this:
At the end of the day, the guy just wanted to have an opportunity to play football, something he was barely doing in Pittsburgh (he has only played 40 snaps this season). With the AFC as tragically mediocre as it has been all year, there is a high probability the Steelers and Pats are going to meet up in the playoffs next month, a game that will certainly make for even better television given the drama being brought to the table by New England's signing of Harrison.