James Harrison rips Roger Goodell

Updated: July 14, 2011, 8:29 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Heavily fined Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison calls NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a "crook" and a "devil," among other insults, in an interview with Men's Journal.

Dobbs If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it. I hate him and will never respect him.

-- James Harrison on Roger Goodell

He even rips teammates Rashard Mendenhall ("fumble machine") and Ben Roethlisberger for their performances in this past season's Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain't that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does," he said, referring to Roethlisberger's two interceptions in the game. Harrison had one tackle, a sack, in the loss against the Packers.

Harrison called Roethlisberger on Wednesday morning to explain his comments. Roethlisberger told ESPN's Merril Hoge that Harrison said the writer of the article twisted many of his comments around and it was not his intention to criticize the quarterback. Roethlisberger told Hoge that he is taking Harrison at his word and that their relationship is "fine."

Mendenhall didn't take offense to Harrison's comments when he posted a response Wednesday on Twitter.

"And lastly, I dont have a problem with what @jharrison9292 said because I know him. But I want you guys 2 check this out," he wrote, providing a link to ESPN.com's 2010 rushing statistics page, which showed he fumbled just twice during the regular season in 324 rushing attempts.

Harrison, the 2008 AP Defensive Player of the Year hasn't been shy about ripping the league after he was docked $100,000 for illegal hits last season. In the August issue of Men's Journal, which has Harrison on the cover holding two pistols, his rants against Goodell reach another level of wrath.

"If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn't do it," Harrison told the magazine. "I hate him and will never respect him."

His other descriptions of the commissioner include an anti-gay slur, "stupid," "puppet" and "dictator."

Harrison told ESPN that the interview took place "in April or May sometime."

If the Steelers had defeated the Packers in the Super Bowl, Harrison said, he would have whispered in Goodell's ear during the trophy ceremony: "Why don't you quit and do something else, like start your own league in flag football?"

Harrison also questions whether a black player is punished more for a hard hit on a white player than the opposite.

"I slammed Vince Young on his head and paid five grand, but just touched Drew Brees and that was 20," Harrison said. "You think black players don't see this s--- and lose all respect for Goodell?"

Harrison also criticizes other NFL executives, Patriots-turned-commentators Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi ("clowns"), and Houston's Brian Cushing ("juiced out of his mind").

Bruschi is an analyst on ESPN's "NFL Live."

Cushing, when asked to respond to Harrison's remarks, told KRIV-TV in Houston: "I'll pray for him."

While Harrison criticized some of his teammates, he had high praise for Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

"He's the one guy in football I respect absolutely, 'cause he's spiritual and lives it like he talks it. You know, he gets more flags than anyone on our team but never gets fined for nothin'. He's so polite and talks so softly that he could tell Goodell to kiss his a--, and Goodell would smile and say thank you," he told the magazine.

Beyond the insults, Harrison makes some serious points about what he believes are the league's misguided attempts to increase safety. He explains how non-guaranteed contracts make players more likely to hit high, because in the short term, a torn knee ligament is more costly than a concussion.

And Harrison suggests the real way to prevent head injuries is to shorten the season to 14 games, start offseason workouts later and trim the length of training camp so "we're not bangin' heads so much in August; that's where the brain trauma comes from."

In a statement released Wednesday, Steelers president Art Rooney II said he hasn't read the article or spoken to Harrison. "We will discuss the situation at the appropriate time, when permitted once the labor situation is resolved," he said.

Harrison's agent chalked up his client's words to "bravado" in comments he made to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"I think people have to be careful not to read that and think those statements are anything more than expressions of feelings, particularly in regard to the commissioner. The commissioner fined James $100,000 last year. What do you want him to say, he's my best friend? James is a tough individual, and that's the type of language he uses," Bill Parise told the newspaper.

"I don't think we should get caught up in his cultural language. I think people will read that for what it is and move on. I don't think anyone truly believes James thinks the commissioner is the devil," he told the newspaper.

Information from ESPN NFL analyst Merril Hoge and The Associated Press was used in this report.