ARLINGTON, Texas -- Hopefully everyone enjoyed Tuesday's Countdown Live coverage of Super Bowl XLV media day, which remains archived for those who want to read through our conversation. Media day gets a bad rap because there are always a handful of quasi-celebrities who try to make the event more about them than the game. But I find that the chaos of it often compels our familiar cast of characters to say and do unexpected things during the hour they spend in the stadium.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison is easily and without question the meanest and craziest man who will play in this game. If I didn't know any better, I would guess he purposefully made headlines Tuesday in an effort to solidify that title.
In the five minutes I stood near his podium, I heard Harrison mock the NFL, its commissioner and anyone who believes the game has gotten too rough. He asked if Goodell wants him to put a pillow down on the field before tackling someone. Harrison, who was fined $100,000 for what the NFL deemed illegal hits during the season, said his subsequent meetings with Goddell were "a waste of time" and that he is back to playing the way he did before the league started fining him.
As a small group of reporters stood stunned, Harrison went on. I was busy typing away on my ESPN-issue iPad for Countdown Live and wasn't recording. So let's give a hat tip to Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette for transcribing what we heard. A sampling:
On if he thinks the NFL cares about keeping players safe:
JH: "The league is doing whatever they need to do that helps them make more money. If you hit Tom Brady [or] Peyton Manning and you concuss them and they can't play the next game, a lot of people might not [tune] in to see that."
On if the NFL made an example of him:
JH: "They needed somebody to make a poster-guy for their rule, and I seemed to be the most recognizable guy at the time. So, they went with me."
It's noteworthy when any player, let alone one on Harrison's level, takes a strong public stance against the league. For it to happen a few days before the Super Bowl only adds to its significance.
Still, it seems to me that above all else, Harrison views himself as a football warrior more than a victim. Taking a strong stand against limitations on hitting quarterbacks was, in my view, an effort at intimidation as much as anything. Some of his strongest comments came in that vein.
Harrison said he has suffered a concussion in an NFL game but it was "not bad enough to come out of a game." He added: "Put it like this: If you don't tell them, they don't know unless you get knocked out and you sitting there with your arms stuck in the air."
In mocking Goodell, Harrison said: "I don't want to hurt nobody. I don't want to step on nobody's foot or hurt their toe. I don't want to have no dirt or none of this rubber on this field to fly into their eye and make their eye hurt. I just want to tackle them softly on the ground and if y'all can, lay a pillow down where I'm a tackle them so they don't hit the ground too hard. OK, Mr. Goodell?"
Harrison's comments were spoken to the media, but I'm betting they were directed at the Packers. As in: Buckle up, boys. The NFL's meanest player is headed your way.
Some shorter tidbits:
The grandfather of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers earned a Purple Heart in World War II after he was shot down. Rodgers said that he was giving "serious thought" to joining the military himself after school before deciding to pursue football.
Packers tight end Tom Crabtree has tattoos up and down both arms. He said he tries to get a one "every time I go somewhere new" but that he might be too busy to pull it off this week in Texas.
A number of Packers players and their wives got together for a "dance-off" using "Dance Central" on Xbox360, receiver Donald Driver said. It was players versus wives. Driver: "We are football players and we thought we could dance. But they smashed us." Driver said a re-match is scheduled for this week at his Dallas-area home.
Packers nose tackle B.J. Raji faced all kinds of questions that were variations of this one: "Not that you're fat, but all big people who are slow and lack the skills, you brought them to another spectrum." Raji's response to that one: "You're a real charmer, man."
Naturally, the gnarly beard of Steelers defensive lineman Brett Keisel drew plenty of attention. I thought Steelers safety Ryan Clark had some of the funniest comments about it. Clark said the only way for Keisel to put his mouthpiece in is to "shove half of his beard in his mouth."
Clark also said the Steelers would hold a "beard-cutting ceremony" if they win Sunday's game. Clark envisioned a ceremony similar to the one college basketball champions use to cut down the nets at the end of the NCAA tournament. "But instead of everyone taking a little bit of the net," Clark said, "we'll all take a piece of the beard."