By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- James Harrison has begun to feel the icy grip of Roger Goodell's tentacles beginning to creep their way up his leg, and the veteran Steelers linebacker is doing all he can to wiggle free.
As one of the accused parties mentioned in December's Al Jazeera documentary, Harrison has found himself in the crosshairs of a league investigation -- one that will try to interview Harrison when he reports to Steelers training camp at the end of July. As was reported last week, the NFL is attempting to interview all players (except for the retired Peyton Manning) named in the report.
The thing with James Harrison, though, is that he doesn't particularly care for Roger Goodell, nor does he care for the commissioner's style of discipline. You might remember this tweet, sent in gleeful retaliation when Goodell was embroiled in the Ray Rice controversy/cover-up.
And so it comes as no surprise that Harrison is not simply bowing at the feet of Goodell and doing as he demands.
"I never had a bully before in my life and I'm DAMN sure not about to have one at this point," Harrison wrote in a statement on Instagram. But since I'm a nice guy and don't mind helping to clear the air in the name of the NFL shield, I'll do this interview."
Nice enough, right? Well, Harrison included his own list of stipulations.
"The interview will be done at MY house. BEFORE training camp. On a date of MY choosing," he wrote, before adding the kicker. "Mr. Goodell must be present."
Harrison and the NFLPA's main point of contention is that the NFL gathered no evidence on its own to tie Harrison to PED use. All the evidence in the Al Jazeera America documentary, in which Harrison was merely mentioned by Charlie Sly as a recipient of the drug known as Delta-2. At the time of the report, Harrison denied ever receiving the drug or taking any illegal substance.
Whether he did or did not take the drug is almost not relevant. The issue at hand is that the NFL is investigating a player based solely on one man's comment about him receiving steroids. Unlike the Miami New Times report which led to the suspension of Alex Rodriguez in MLB, there's no paper trail or documentation tying Harrison to the drug -- that is, unless the NFL's investigative unit has uncovered the information on its own and has kept the findings private.
What doesn't help Harrison's case is the fact that MLB suspended Taylor Teagarden, who appeared in the documentary, and the fact that Peyton Manning never denied the claim that HGH was shipped to his house. He merely explained that the drugs were for his wife and not him. Nevertheless, the credibility of Sly (prior to the forced recanting) was bolstered by that admission by Manning.
Wherever the guilt may lie, the situation bears watching, given the history between Harrison and Goodell. It was only a few short years ago that Harrison took such issue with Goodell labeling him a dirty player that the linebacker went on the record to absolutely blast the commissioner.
"Up until last year, there was no word of me being dirty – till Roger Goodell, who's a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league," Harrison said in 2011 in Men's Journal. "If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him."
Harrison also referred to the commissioner as a homosexual slur in that article and also called him a "punk" and a "dictator." Additionally, Harrison discussed some prejudicial treatment of black players compared to white players, noting that his own violent hit on Vince Young netted only a $5,000 fine, while a less violent hit on Drew Brees cost him $20,000.
(Also of note in that Men's Journal article was Harrison's expressing of dislike toward Houston linebacker Brian Cushing. Of Cushing, Harrison said, "That boy is juiced out of his mind." He also referred to Rodney Harrison as "a steroid cheater.")
Even aside from the current news, Harrison's had quite the offseason in dealing with the NFL and its steroid testing. He decided to record videos of the process of being tested during the offseason, something the NFL objected to mightily. It created enough of a stir for the NFLPA to have to resolve the situation.
Harrison later didn't find it to be a coincidence when he was requested to take a PED test shortly after the NFL's Twitter account was hacked.
Much more than Harrison vs. any opponent on the field, this Harrison vs. Goodell battle ought to be a fun one to watch. With Goodell running mad with authority, it just may take a man who's willing to boycott a White House trip (because the president would have hosted the other team's players if they had won the Super Bowl) to be the one to drop the gloves and initiate an old-fashioned Wild West battle with the sports world's most powerful commissioner.
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