By Dale Grdnic
LATROBE, Pa. — While his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates did not have any issues with outspoken outside linebacker James Harrison after his comments in a recent interview with Men’s Journal, head coach Mike Tomlin labeled those concerning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as inappropriate.
Tomlin, who spoke to the media after his conditioning evaluation (not a test) Thursday during the first training camp day at Saint Vincent College, noted that nothing was discussed concerning disciplinary action against Harrison. However, he added that there was a lot going on right now. And everyone was multi-tasking, so he didn’t rule it out. But he clearly didn’t like what Harrison said.
“I think it was inappropriate,” Tomlin said. “Whether it’s detrimental to the development of our team, that remains to be seen. But it was inappropriate. We’ve had several conversations regarding it, and I’ll leave that between he and I. (But) what he said regarding the Commissioner was inappropriate.
“We have a unique group of guys who are uniquely close, so I imagine that it didn’t register as big a blip on the radar as you might imagine. Those guys love and respect James. They know how he is, and they take some of the things he says with a grain of salt, to be quite honest with you.”
Harrison called Goodell stupid, a puppet, a dictator and also used a gay slur to describe him. Harrison basically said that if Goodell was on fire, he wouldn’t pee on him to put him out. Harrison also called Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall a fumble machine and chastised quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for his two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown.
Harrison later apologized to his teammates and backed off his other comments a bit, saying that his words were twisted. Harrison was unavailable for comment Thursday, as the Steelers arrived for the opening of training camp.
As usual, safety Ryan Clark talked to the media and was asked about Harrison.
“He was honest, but you have to realize who you’re talking to,” Clark said. “As much as I like to laugh and smile and talk with you guys, you’re not my friends. And you all don’t consider me a friend. So, things can be taken out of context and chopped up and cut up to make a story sensational.
“You like to sensationalize things to make things more interesting, and that’s what I think happened. He spent a lot of time with that guy, and it came back to bite him. But if you know anything about James, he’s not really worried about you all anyway or worried about the perception that people have of him.
“He’s going to play good football, and he’s a great teammate,” Clark added. “I wouldn’t want to go to war with anybody else. He made the apologies that he felt he had to make and to the people he had to make them to. And we’re ready to play football. That’s over.”
Steelers defensive captain James Farrior also believed the issue was moot.
“I think James apologized for some of the comments he made,” Farrior said. “We’re going to be business as usual. He’s the best teammate you could have in your locker room. I’m sure it’s something James probably said to their faces (Roethlisberger and Mendenhall). He’s never had a problem speaking his mind.”
Tomlin wasn’t as forthcoming with his opinion about wideout Hines Ward’s offseason trouble, a DUI arrest in Atlanta earlier this month. Tomlin wouldn’t even say if he spoke to Ward about it.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of our guys about their individual situations, and I fully intend to leave that between them and myself,” Tomlin said.
Notes: Tomlin noted that Ward (thumb surgery), offensive guard Chris Kemoeatu (knee swelling from training) and tight end Eugene Bright (shoulder surgery) will begin camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.
Tomlin said the running drills (10 100-yard runs) was not a test, but done only for evaluation purposes to determine the conditioning of the players. Some, Tomlin added: “We wanted to see where the guys were at, and in some instances we did.”
Wideout Limas Sweed, running back Jonathan Dwyer, nose tackle Casey Hampton and offensive tackle Flozell Adams were asked to step to the sideline before completing the session, but no reasons were given.