James Harrison issues statement

Updated: July 17, 2011, 11:27 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison apologized on Thursday for some of his remarks in an interview with Men's Journal.

"I'll start by offering my apologies for some of the words that I said during the four days in May that Men's Journal was invited to my house to discuss what the NFL has recently been portraying as their attempts at 'player safety' rules and regulations," Harrison said in a statement released on Twitter.

He ripped teammates Rashard Mendenhall and Ben Roethlisberger for their performances in the Steelers' Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers.

"I did make comments about my teammates when I was talking about the emotional Super Bowl loss, but the handful of words that were used and heavily publicized yesterday were pulled out of a long conversation and the context was lost," Harrison said. "Obviously, I would never say that it was all Ben's or Rashard's fault that we lost the Super Bowl. That would be ridiculous.

"We all have discussed several things that went wrong in the Super Bowl since that day. What I do apologize for and take full responsibility for is for speaking in such a candid manner to someone outside the team."

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. Harrison's harshest words in the article were aimed at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, whom Harrison called a "crook" and a "devil." He also said in the article of Goodell, "I hate him and will never respect him."

Harrison did not mention those insults, but did say the antigay slur directed at the commissioner "was not intended to be derogatory against gay people in any way. It was careless use of a slang word and I apologize to all who were offended by the remark. I am not a homophobic bigot, and I would never advocate intolerance of gay people."

Harrison did not apologize for a photo depicting him with guns, saying collecting firearms is his hobby.

"I believe in the right to bear arms. I like to go to the shooting range. I like to hunt. I like to fish. I could just as easily have posed with my fishing poles but it obviously wouldn't be an interesting picture for the magazine," he said. "I am not promoting gun violence by posing for that photo. There are also other photos in the magazine story that were not shown on air yesterday -- including me with my sons, with my mom and as a kid."

Harrison said he had hoped to shed light on the NFL's hypocrisy in regards to player safety.

"If player safety is the NFL's main concern, as they say it is, they are not going about it in an effective manner," Harrison said. "There's nothing about extending the season or issuing exorbitant fines on defensive players that makes any shift toward the prevention of injury to players.

"I believe that the league may have been feeling increasing pressure about injuries and concussions last year, and that they panicked and put rules in place that weren't fully thought out. I'm not advocating more flags and fines, I'm just saying that the current rules are not completely fair, and I don't believe in the way that the league is handling their position as overseer of the NFL and the well-being of its players."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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