James Harrison is shocked that people took him seriously.
A day after his comments suggesting that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin paid him after a hit that drew a $75,000 fine, the former Steelers linebacker insisted that Tomlin didn’t have a bounty system in place.
Harrison came to Tomlin’s and his own defense on Instagram on Friday.
‘Mike T has never paid me for hurting someone’
“Wow y'all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!?," Harrison wrote, referencing the New Orleans Saints scandal from 2009. "Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY!
“If you knew the full story of what happened back then you'd know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn't even penalized during the game.”
Harrison drew scrutiny for his original comments on Thursday that Tomlin handed him an “envelope” after a 2011 hit to the head of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Massaquoi was a defenseless receiver on the play when Harrison made a direct helmet-to-helmet blow from Massaquoi’s blind side that left him lying prone on the field.
‘He handed me an envelope’
Harrison drew a $75,000 fine for the hit. In an appearance on the “Going Deep” podcast, Harrison said Thursday that Tomlin handed him an envelope after the fine.
“I ain’t going to lie to you. When that happened, right? The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that.
“I ain’t going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”
Harrison’s denial is ambiguous
Harrison didn’t deny on Friday that Tomlin gave him money to cover the fine, which was the clear suggestion in his Thursday comments. He just wrote that Tomlin never paid him for “hurting someone or trying to hurt someone” while denying that there was an explicit bounty system in place.
So ambiguity remains.
Denials all around
Steelers owner Art Rooney II denied on Thursday that Tomlin paid Harrison.
“I am very certain nothing like this ever happened,” Rooney said in a statement. “I have no idea why James would make a comment like this, but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this.”
Harrison’s agent Bill Parise also denied the claim.
“Absolutely not,” Parise told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Never happened. I would have known that. It didn’t happen.”
Sean Payton weighs in
Meanwhile Saints head coach Sean Payton, who was on the receiving end of significant league discipline for the 2009 bounty scandal, said he expects the NFL to sweep Harrison’s claim under the rug.
“If people are waiting for the league to investigate that, they shouldn’t hold their breath,” Payton told 105.7 The Fan while arguing that bountygate was a “sham.” “... I would be shocked. That’ll be something that’s tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue.”
Neither Tomlin nor the NFL have publicly commented on Harrison’s claim.
Harrison, meanwhile, used his Instagram post to try to shift focus off himself and onto the league’s stance on player safety.
“When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of," Harrison wrote. "EVERYBODY knew it -- even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine.
“AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they'd be rewarded for anything like that.”
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