James Harrison admitted Wednesday the transition from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati was not as easy or smooth as he had expected at first, but the five-time Pro Bowl linebacker added that he recently has settled into a comfort level.
“If you had asked me yesterday, I would have told you I was down bad,” Harrison said Wednesday afternoon after the team’s fifth practice of the voluntary three-week Offseason Team Activity session.
“But today I had a chance to go over all the stuff we put in yesterday,” Harrison added. “The first week we put in a few things, and then yesterday I think we threw in maybe three times as much as we did the whole first week. I had a chance to go back last night and go over the defenses and had a whole better time of executing.”
But Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said if Harrison was struggling, it wasn’t evident.
“Harrison has been conscientious in the meetings, he’s been studying, fitting in good with the team,” Zimmer said. “He’s been trying to do everything like we’ve asked him to do it. He’s fit in good.”
Both me were asked if the media make too much about switching from the 3-4 defense Harrison played in at Pittsburgh under Dick LeBeau to the 4-3 defense Zimmer runs in Cincinnati. And their answers surprisingly differed.
“Yes, you all do,” Harrison said. “I’m playing SAM, so I’m basically doing the same thing I do in a 3-4 defense. It’s just that I’ll switch where I’m lining up. I’ll be in a 40 or 30, stacked behind a tackle or guard or whatever it may be, and I’ll do my job from there.”
But Zimmer disagreed, saying the differences are more than subtle.
“It is an adjustment,” he said. “Some 4-3s are different, and we’re different than what he’s done before. We’ll do a lot of things with him that he may not have done as much of.”
One thing Harrison has done plenty in the past is rush the quarterback, and it’s something he’s likely to do even more with the Bengals.
He had 64 sacks in 10 seasons with the Steelers, including 16 in 2008, when he won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Even last year when he was battling a knee issue and was limited to 13 games, Harrison still had six sacks, equaling the total of the entire Bengals linebacker corps.
“I think I’ll be covering a little less here (and) I believe they’ll have me rushing a little more than I have been in Pittsburgh the previous few years,” Harrison said. “I’ve only been here for a week, but I think (Zimmer’s) scheme, his defense is well thought out, well drawn up. He does a lot things that help guys to maximize what they’re good at.”
On that the two agreed, with Zimmer drawing a comparison to his days in Dallas.
“I had Greg Ellis play for me in Dallas, a defensive end,” Zimmer said. “When we went to the 3-4, we played him at outside linebacker. What we did for him was we put it in just like we normally do, and then we figure out what he’s not good at doing and ask him not to do those things.
“That’s what we’re doing with James,” Zimmer continued. “We’re giving him everything that we’ll normally do, and if there are some things that we can help him by making some checks or different calls off of it, then we’ll fix that part of it without changing the entire concepts of the defense that we do. We’re always trying to put our players into the best position to the best we can.”