Healthy, happy Harrison arrives in Cincinnati

Saying he feels as good as he has since 2008 when he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award, Cincinnati linebacker James Harrison met with the local media Tuesday in his first press conference since signing with the Bengals on April 23.

Dressed in a snug gray t-shirt and black shorts, Harrison appeared calm and relaxed as cameras clicked all around him. But he also imposed a strict 10-minute limit on the interview session, which began with a reporter asking him how it felt to walk in and see the stripes and the orange and black colors.

“It’s a change,” said Harrison, who arrived in Cincinnati to meet his new teammates Monday. “That’s definite. But everything has a reason, and everything happens for a reason. I’m happy to be here, and I’m ready to learn and see what I can do to help the team win.”

The 35-year-old Harrison, who went to five Pro Bowls and won two Super Bowls during 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, adds a little spice and a lot of credibility to a Bengals team looking for its first playoff victory in 23 years.

“He gives you that swagger and that seal,” Bengals cornerback Adam Jones said. “You know when you mail off the letter you make sure you put a stamp on it. Well, he’s the stamp.”

Harrison and the Steelers parted in March when he was released after refusing to take a pay cut from the six-year, $51.75 million contract extension he signed in 2009.

Tuesday afternoon he re-iterated that he didn’t take the move personally … sort of.

“I understand it’s a business, so it’s not like I can really take it personally,” he said. “But to say that it doesn’t motivate me in some sense would be a lie.”

Harrison will not have to wait long to face his former team as the Steelers will be in Cincinnati on Sept. 16 for the Bengals’ home opener on Monday Night Football.

Judging by his comments Tuesday, Harrison will spend more than a quarter of a million dollars to make sure his body is ready for the reunion.

“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that I spend anywhere between $400,000-$600,000 thousand dollars on body work, as far as taking care of my body, year-in and year-out,” he said, adding that he not only employs but houses a staff of six massage therapists, acupuncturists and homeopathic doctors.

“I have a hyperbaric chamber,” Harrison continued. “I rent a hyperbaric chamber when I’m in Arizona. I have massages, and I bring people in from New York, Arizona to where I’m at. I get body work almost every single day except Saturday and Sunday.”

Despite Harrison’s reputation and rings, the Bengals asked him to work out last month when he came in for a visit because they wanted to make sure he was fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him most of training camp and the first three games last year.

Harrison said he was happy to get on the field to erase the doubts, but he also admitted that the years of wear and tear have put some limits on his game.

“I’m still not able to do certain things, but as far as my physical health, I’m able to train a lot harder than I have been over the last two, three offseasons,” he said. “I’m able to do a lot more weight. I’m able to just do a lot more things that my body physically couldn’t do because of injury, or whatever it may be.”

With the 10-minute mark looming, Harrison, who is one of the most heavily fined players in league history, was asked one final question: Do you play mean?

“Like mad?” he asked in return. “No. It’s focus. It’s intense. It’s violent. Because it’s a violent game. You can’t go out there with a smile on your face. I’m not out there mad at the world, making up scenarios in my head just so I could go out there and play a little harder. It’s focus and intense 100 miles an hour.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Sports

Young Reds’ starters to get long look rest of season
Young Reds’ starters to get long look rest of season

Robert Stephenson knew going into his first major league start of the 2017 season on Saturday that it wouldn’t be his last. Manager Bryan Price already had promised that Stephenson, Cincinnati’s top pick and the 27th overall selection in the 2011 draft, would be part of the Reds rotation long enough for Price and the franchise’s decision-makers...
Santillan leads Dragons past Burlington
Santillan leads Dragons past Burlington

The Dragons were hoping for a better pitching performance on Sunday against the Burlington Bees after allowing 16 runs the last two nights in lopsided losses. They had good reason to hope with Tony Santillan on the mound. Santillan has been one of Dayton’s best starters this season and had another good performance in a 6-1 win over the Bees,...
Young Reds fan kicks Marlins’ Dee Gordon before game
Young Reds fan kicks Marlins’ Dee Gordon before game

Five-year-old Reds fan, Leo Schneider, met the Marlins’ Dee Gordon before Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. Young Leo then introduced Gordon to his big toe.   “It was all planned,” Leo’s mom, Amy Danzo-Schneider, told via phone. “Dee Gordon was motioning Leo to come to him. The umpire went with...
Romano, home runs lead Reds past Marlins
Romano, home runs lead Reds past Marlins

Rookie right-hander Sal Romano’s changeup and the Reds’ clubhouse laundry added up to a desperately needed win on Sunday. Romano made his fourth and longest big league start, keeping the Miami Marlins at bay long enough for the offense to string together enough runs for a 6-3 win in the finale of a three-game series and dismal 10-game home...
Dragons drubbed, but Siri extends hit streak to 28 games

By John Cummings Contributing Writer Somewhere, a switch was flipped on the Dayton Dragons and manager Luis Bolivar is trying to switch it back. The Dragons, who had five of their last seven games decided by two runs or less, were banged out of Fifth Third Field for the second consecutive night Saturday, 8-2 by Burlington. Dayton lost 8-1 to Peoria...
More Stories