NFL Any Era: James Harrison

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
2:00
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Joe Namath and James Harrison ESPN.com IllustrationWe guarantee James Harrison would focus on getting Hall of Famer Joe Namath. MATCHUP GALLERY
ESPN.com is unveiling its "Any Era" team this week which features 20 current players with the toughness to play in any period of NFL history. The team was assembled by votes from 20 Hall of Fame players (here's a full explanation of the project).

Coming in at No. 10 on the Any Era Team is Steelers linebacker James Harrison. It's surprising that Harrison isn't rated higher on this list because his nasty approach to playing would allow him to thrive in the old-school football days of the 1950s, '60s and '70s.

As ESPN's John Clayton noted, his ferocious tackling style would fit perfectly in the classic Steelers-Raiders clashes. And, if he was playing back then, he wouldn't get fined. He would be applauded.

Here are explanations from three Hall of Fame players on why Harrison made the cut:
MIKE SINGLETARY: “I picked him because of his mentality, he’s been cut so many times and yet he kept coming back. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but when he lines up, he plays, and he plays every down and that’s what you’ve gotta have on defense so that’s why he’s there. Simply, it’s because of his mindset—greatness to me is all about what you overcome, and he’s been tremendous.”

LYNN SWANN: "James will take on two blockers at a time, he’ll stop them and then stop a guy for a loss and that fires up a team. With these guys every game you are looking for a hit or a major stop or a picked off pass. With Harrison you don’t know if the contribution will be a sack, a hit for a loss, a big stop for a loss on 4th down, or dropping back in coverage to pick off a pass."

MARCUS ALLEN: “A guy I think could play in the years past, old school, is James Harrison. He gets reprimanded playing the game I grew up wanting to play like and admired and so forth. They are called dirty players and unfortunately, the game has changed a bit. The league has made quite a bit of money off the hits we see in highlights and there is generation of kids who grew up watching and were taught that’s the way you play.”

Harrison is the third AFC North player to make the list, but there are more division players in the top 10. The AFC North blog will post every time a division player makes the Any Era Team.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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