Steelers linebacker James Harrison: If healthy, 'I will play' another season
February 17, 2016 11:13 PM
James Harrison has one year remaining on a contract that will count $1.5 million against the 2016 salary cap.
James Harrison: "I want to get back out there and get to at least six weeks of training and, by the end of that six weeks, feel good, not have any aches and pains."
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
James Harrison said it’s not a question of if he wants to return for one more season with the Steelers.
Rather, it’s going to be if his body cooperates through a six-week training cycle that will determine if he can come back for his 14th and likely final season.
“That’s the guarantee I want,” Harrison said Wednesday in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m going to start the process of making sure that I can get back to where I need to be so I’m able to give 100 percent. If I’m not able to get back to that point, I’ll do what’s necessary to be fair to my team and myself.”
Harrison, who has one year remaining on a contract that will count $1.5 million against the 2016 salary cap, will be 38 in May. But he missed only one game because of injury last season, played more than 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and showed no sign of fatigue in the postseason.
Harrison said he will begin training at Performance Enhancement Professionals in North Scottsdale, Ariz., with his offseason trainer, Ian Danney, the second week of March. After six weeks, he said he will know if his body is responding and if he will be able to come back for one more year.
That would take him right to the start of the Steelers’ offseason training activities.
“I want to get back out there and get to at least six weeks of training and, by the end of that six weeks, feel good, not have any aches and pains,” said Harrison, a five-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker who was the NFL’s defensive player of the year in 2008. “You’ll have the normal soreness, but not having aches and pains and be able to have movements will be the key.
“If I get to that point and I’m feeling good, there’s probably a good chance — no, not probably, I will play.”
Harrison said the toughest part of playing one more season is the preparation. He said offseason training, coupled with the OTAs and training camp, is much more difficult than playing a 16-game schedule. Harrison called it the “most strenuous” thing he does.
If he does return in 2016, Harrison will need three sacks to pass Jason Gildon (77) as the Steelers’ all-time leader.
“As long as you have the desire to do it, the grind is something you’ve got to work through,” he said. “If I ever lose the desire to want to do something, it will show in my work or preparation. If I got to a point where I can’t do this, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Harrison thought he was at that point after the 2013 season when he decided to retire after one season with the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers even had a news conference with Harrison announcing his retirement in September 2014. But after outside linebacker Jarvis Jones had a bad wrist injury three weeks later, the Steelers, with the help of veteran players Troy Polamalu and Ike Taylor, coaxed Harrison into coming back.
Harrison liked it so much he came back for another season. And, now, possibly one more. That will be Harrison’s call.
“When I retired I was at that point, I was comfortable, I was fine,” Harrison said. “But things happened, they gave me a call, and it basically came down to I didn’t want to let my teammates down. As I came back and got into it, I started to like it.”
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