Steelers' Harrison: Goodell lawsuit 'win-win'
It is almost four months before the start of the NFL season, but James Harrison appears to be in midseason form when it comes to tweaking his frequent foil.
The Steelers outside linebacker took a couple of subtle swipes at Roger Goodell on Wednesday, calling the defamation lawsuit that Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma brought against the NFL commissioner last week a “win-win” for the players.
“If (Vilma) loses, it shows Goodell does have too much power,” Harrison said following an offseason practice, “and if he wins, it opens up the floodgates.”
Goodell suspended Vilma for the 2012 season for the latter's role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal. Goodell has drawn criticism, particularly from players, for not being more forthcoming about evidence he has against Vilma and others that were disciplined for their part in an illicit pay-for-play system.
“I don't know what was said in (the Saints') locker room,” said Steelers guard Willie Colon, who is close friends with New Orleans receiver Marques Colston. “To purposely go after a guy's knee, head and leg, I think that's uncalled for and totally disgusting. But to say guys are wrong after getting after another guy, that's just the game of football. So I think there's a fine line. If they crossed it in any way, then they should be handled accordingly.
“I know we don't do football like that.”
Harrison, who has been at odds with Goodell since being fined $100,000 for multiple on-field infractions in 2010, said the Vilma case is another example of the commissioner having too much power.
No player has been more critical of Goodell and his crackdown on player misconduct than Harrison.
Harrison, who was suspended for a game last season for a helmet-to-helmet hit, said the players should have done more to check Goodell's power in the collective bargaining agreement they ratified last year.
The Steelers, Harrison was quick to point out, were the only team that didn't vote in favor of the CBA. When asked if more players regret not doing the same, the five-time Pro Bowler said, “I would hope so.”
The NFL mandated at the owners meetings earlier this week that players start wearing thigh and knee pads in 2013. The league's latest safety initiative was news to Harrison.
“I don't know how many guys end their career on a thigh or a knee bruise,” Harrison said. “If they really want to do something, they should get rid of the high-low block. I thought that was illegal, but it isn't (on running plays).
“If you ask me, I think it's more dangerous in the run game. When it comes down to it, the (NFL) competition committee doesn't feel that way. Of course, a few of those guys that are on that (committee), their teams practice doing that, so they wouldn't feel that way.”
Scott Brown is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.