By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — Friday basically was “Come Clean Day” for several Pittsburgh Steelers, as offseason bad boys James Harrison, Hines Ward and Rashard Mendenhall addressed their off-field situations.
Actually, Mendenhall would not discuss his Tweets about Osama bin Laden, but he did talk about his crucial fourth-quarter fumble in the Super Bowl. However, he didn’t believe it detracted from what was an excellent third NFL season.
“For a lot of other people it did, but for me it didn’t,” Mendenhall said. “It was just one play of many plays, so I try not to linger on any one play too long.”
Harrison, as usual, spoke candidly about his “Men’s Journal” interview where he verbally bashed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and teammates Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger. But he also was quite apologetic.
“The interview that I did and the comments I made about Roger Goodell were inappropriate at the least and way out of line,” Harrison said. “I was speaking out of anger and frustration at the time, and any comments that I may have made that offended anyone with my careless use of words, I apologize.
“I don’t think he’s a guy who’s going to hold something personal like what I did against me, and that’s what I did. I attacked him on a personal level. And that’s not right, but I don’t expect anything to come out of it. I also talked with Mr. Rooney about it, and it has yet to be determined what will happen there.”
Like his Steelers teammates said Thursday, Harrison has tried to put the incident behind him. He spoke with them about it and explained what was said.
“Like I’ve said, those comments were taken out of context from a long conversation, and it’s not anything that I haven’t talked with those guys about or any of my other teammates about,” Harrison added. “But it was from a long conversation.
“(And) what I said to my teammates is what I said to them, and it isn’t to be discussed with you guys. That’s my problem, and it’s why I’m here now. They’re fine with it. They understand me, and I understand them. I’m here to play ball, and we’ll move on from there.”
Roethlisberger basically echoed that sentiment.
“James called me that day and left me the message that I probably wanted to talk to him, but I had no idea what he was talking about,” Roethlisberger said. “I called him, and he explained everything. But it literally was nothing. And there are no lingering effects whatsoever. … He plays the game with a passion that we all recognize, at a level different from most people.
“And that’s what makes him special. He’s just as emotional a guy off the field, but that’s who it is. That’s why it had no affect on me. No one’s going to be harder than me than I am, and I told all the guys that it was my fault that we lost the Super Bowl anyway.”
Harrison did not believe he would face discipline from the NFL, but he’s decide how to handle it if it happens. Health-wise, Harrison said he’s at about 75-80 percent after offseason back surgery.
“I’m good enough to get out there and get some wear and tear and get some bumps and bruises to see exactly how it’s going to play out,” Harrison said. “I hope it doesn’t (linger), but it’s going to be a long process. It’s not something I’m going to be dealing with for a couple weeks, and then I’ll be done with it.
“I’m anticipating it going on for the whole season. It might be 12 months to recover from this fully, and I understand that. I’m going to do what I need to do to take care of my body so I can play. To say that it didn’t (affect him last year), that would be a lie. But that’s not an excuse. There are other guys out here playing hurt and injured. I was just one of them.”
Ward also described his DUI arrest earlier this month as an unfortunate incident, but declined to speak specifically about it because he has not yet gone to trial.
“I’m going to just leave it in my attorney’s hands,” Ward said. “But I’m confident that in the end, everything’s going to work out. I’ve been a model guy for 13 years, so it was an unfortunate incident that happened. But I’ll get my day in court, and we’ll see what happens.”
Ward believed the Steelers should sign Plaxico Burress as long as he’ll help them win the Super Bowl. Roethlisberger agreed.
“I’ve been talking to him,” Roethlisberger said. “We talked for the last couple months, and I asked him the other day if he’d be interested. And I’m glad he’s coming in to talk about it (Saturday with Coach Mike Tomlin).
“We’ve got a great offense, a good, young group, and Plax could come in and along with Hines help our young guys. We’ve got a great group of young guys with a couple veterans, and Plax would add to that. I know those guys would welcome the challenge playing alongside him the same way they do Hines.”
Ward said he hoped to be back in action in another week or so after helping the young players take advantage of his opening week when many veterans are either unsigned or not allowed to practice.