RUSH: So the Steelers have got some linebacker problems. They lost a couple on Sunday night in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. They lost one of their great rookies, Ryan Shazier, number 50, and a second-year player, Jarvis Jones, just coming into his own, dislocated or broken wrist, gonna be gone at least eight weeks. Not known how long Shazier is gonna be gone.
The Steelers played an amazing defensive game Sunday night. They shocked everybody the way they played. So they want to keep the momentum going. They’ve gone back to old number 92, James Harrison, who announced his retirement from the Steelers back in September at a formal ceremony at Steelers facility.
Now, Harrison, for those of you that follow the game, know that he’s been in trouble with the league before because this guy was a headhunter. He followed the rules, but he hit with his head, he led with his head. He laid a bunch of guys out and he got fined repeatedly. He was on highlight reels called “Jacked Up” back when ESPN used to make stars out of guys that laid other guys out. That’s before they were guilt tripped in the whole concussion business.
So it’s time to bring back James Harrison. They gotta give him a physical. They gotta negotiate a new deal with him. That’s being done. But then somebody said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, James Harrison, didn’t he hit a woman once?” And right here it is, USA Today: “At a time of heightened sensitivity in the NFL about domestic violence, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he expects no problems with the team’s decision to re-sign a player who has an issue in the past that has parallels to Ray Rice’s.
“Linebacker James Harrison admitted to police in March 2008 he broke down a bedroom door, slapped his girlfriend in the face and snapped her cell phone in half during an argument the Steelers said at the time was over whether to baptize Harrison’s son, according to the criminal complaint. Allegheny County prosecutors dropped charges of simple assault and criminal mischief against Harrison after he entered into domestic abuse counseling and the girlfriend, Beth Tibbott, said she did not wish to pursue further charges.
“Steelers chairman Dan Rooney faced scrutiny at the time for applying a double standard when the team cut receiver Cedrick Wilson hours after his own domestic violence arrest less than two weeks later. But the Steelers stood by Harrison, and the NFL didn’t suspend him.”
So naturally at the press conference yesterday, they asked Mike Tomlin about this. They want to know here, what’s the deal bringing back Harrison? The question was, “I know it’s been seven years, but it’s a different climate now with everything going on around the league. What went into the thinking about standing by James Harrison when he had his incident when it hasn’t been the case with other players.” Meaning, they let Cedric Wilson go, they kept Harrison.
Look, everybody knows the answer to the question. Harrison can play. It’s why the Ravens wanted to keep Ray Rice. He can play. It’s one of the — I hate the phrase “dirty little secrets,” but everybody knows. They invested a lot of money. They invested a lot of time with Harrison. Harrison spent 10 years with the team, getting cut numerous times. He really worked his way up to a starter position and may in fact have the greatest play in Super Bowl history, a 100-yard interception return against the Arizona Cardinals. Anyway, here’s what Mike Tomlin had to say.
TOMLIN: It’s been seven years, and it is a different climate. I’ve discussed directly that climate change with James, but knowing James over those seven, eight years, he’s grown a lot, as has his lady, and I don’t anticipate that being an issue at all moving forward.
RUSH: Obviously not or they wouldn’t have brought him back in this climate, as you say. And there haven’t been any subsequent issues with James Harrison since that incident seven or eight years ago. Now, in light of that, you know, last week I think in the heat of all of this discussion about Ray Rice domestic violence, et al, in the National Football League, I referenced a piece I’d read in the New York Post by Phil Mushnick in which he pointed out that every one of these players in the NFL that’s been accused of or charged with some form of domestic violence is a college man.
They all come out of college. What was going on in college? Were they not trained? Were they not educated? Did they engage in this behavior in college, was it looked the other way? I remember, just as an illustration of this, I don’t know how many, five years ago now, maybe, six, time flies, the former coach at the University of Tennessee, Phillip Fulmer, one year, 21 players on his team were arrested for various problems with the law.
He was driven to frustration and he actually had a press conference. He said he couldn’t understand why young men with such a unique and great opportunity to play football at Tennessee and perhaps end up playing on Sunday in the NFL and all that could mean to them economically, financially, he couldn’t understand why young men would just throw that all away in one night.
Now, the odds are he did. I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but the point is, these guys all come from somewhere. My point back then was, the NFL doesn’t turn these guys into this kind of behavior; they arrive that way. And in many cases, it’s the same way on college campi. They arrive that way. So what is it that is happening in their lives that they arrive with these behaviors intact, and why is it that there hasn’t been any discipline meted out prior to that?
Well, one of the answers to that is — and I’m sure you’ve seen it in your life. A young kid, could be as young as 11 or 12, exhibits rare athletic talent and skill. It could be pitching a baseball, could be hitting one. It could be throwing a football. It could be swinging a golf club at a hundred miles an hour. It could be anything, but once it is spotted, those kids are immediately focused on and coddled and shaped and formed and everything is done for them to ensure that they have every chance to take that skill or athletic talent as far as they can.
So it’s looked the other way if they cut class, they don’t go to class. People don’t pay attention. They are coddled, and they very rarely are said “no” to. They’re not subject to the discipline everybody else is, and they grow up expecting that kind of reverential treatment. You’ve seen it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Let me give you an example of this. This is not bad, it’s just an example. When I worked for the Kansas City Royals, an incident, it was funny in a way, it was charming in a way, but it’s still illustrative.
Every off season various clubs have awards banquets and dinners to keep interest in baseball alive during the cold and snowy winter months. They’ll bring in award winners from around the league to come in for a big banquet and dinner and they’ll show video highlights from all the players from outside of town. We had a guy that was invited to go to the Milwaukee awards dinner, and it was in January. Well, there weren’t any direct flights from Kansas City to Milwaukee, so the player had to go through Chicago.
The player had never been in an airport, even though he traveled with the team. It’s all charters. A bus takes you to the airplane. A bus picks you up at the airplane. A bus takes you to the hotel, where you are met by an official with your room key. You don’t even see the front desk. You get on the plane. The plane flies. The plane lands. You get on a bus, go right to the hotel. You’re given your room key. You go up to your room. You never check in. You never check out. You never see your luggage. It’s done that way for convenience.
If you have to move around a lot of people, that’s the way you do it. It’s not done to treat ’em like kings; it’s for efficiency. But this poor guy didn’t know what to do once he got off the plane Chicago. He’d never changed planes. We had to ask him, “What signs are you seeing?” I just mention that as an example of how a lot of them end up being sheltered and protected from when they’re very young and exhibit this kind of talent.
Now, it’s all leading up to this story. This from Alabama.com. I just got this about 25 minutes ago. “Auburn University Reportedly…” Now, keep this in mind: It’s at Alabama.com, state rivalries and all that. So we’ll take this under advisement. “Auburn Reportedly Recruiting Defensive Tackle Dismissed by Georgia Over Assault, Family Violence Charge.” Now, I’m not gonna mention the guy’s name ’cause I don’t know how true this is, but I’m just gonna read you the story.
“It appears [X] is working his way back into SEC circles. Auburn is reportedly keeping tabs on the 6-foot-5, 320-pound defensive tackle, who was dismissed from Georgia’s program in July. [He] was arrested and charged with aggravated assault/family violence and was subsequently dismissed by the Bulldogs. It wasn’t his first run-in with the law, as he was also one of four players arrested after trying to double-cash scholarship checks in March.
“While his legal issues have yet to be resolved, [X] is currently on the road to redemption at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in” Mississippi. So the point here is while everyone’s focused on the Ray Rice incident in the NFL, this is a little nugget here for you: Auburn and LSU are both trying to recruit X, who used to play at Georgia.
The coach dismissed him from Georgia after he was arrested for punching his girlfriend in the face. Does that sound familiar? So you wonder where these players with these attitudes come from. As Mushnick said, they’re all college men. Where does this start? So the NFL gets blamed here, but as I said, the NFL is not creating this atmosphere of behavior, this climate of behavior.
They may have been looking the other way in certain instances, tolerating it, but they’re not starting it. In fact, I’ll just say one more time: The NFL, in many cases, is probably the first real formal workplace discipline that a lot of players have ever encountered. It’s required to stay on the team. I’m talking about discipline at the facility, not in your off-hours or private life.