James Harrison fired back at the Steelers regarding his 2017 tactics, saying he repeatedly asked for a release this season. The Patriots linebacker said he asked for a release at the beginning of the season when it was clear his role was not what he thought it was going to be, but the team didn’t grant the request, he said on Instagram (via NESN’s Doug Kyed, on Twitter). The 39-year-old edge defender, who did have an extensive role in 2016, said the Steelers continued to tell him he would play only to deactivate him on Sundays or dress him and not deploy him. Harrison has played just 40 snaps across five games this season.
The new Patriots defender — who said he may not have “handled his frustration” well, seeming to confirm some of the accounts of ex-Steelers teammates — said he asked to be released (well, waived, since the trade deadline has passed) early last week before finally seeing the team do so. Harrison said Pittsburgh did not assure him he would be brought back, but the team also didn’t close the door on that possibility prior to his Patriots signing. He described the signing with New England as a “business decision.”
Here’s more from the AFC East.
- Harrison said no other teams made offers to sign him, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald notes. Unsurprisingly, Harrison’s Patriots deal is for the prorated veteran minimum. He will earn $58K for his work this week plus playoff shares depending on how far New England advances, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. The Steelers signed Harrison to a two-year contract in March and paid him $2.13MM this season.
- The Jets‘ Todd Bowles extension talks may have begun as recently as late December, with Rich Cimini of ESPN.com reporting Jets CEO Christopher Johnson opting to be proactive instead of letting Bowles enter a walk year and opening the door to other teams’ overtures. Specifically, Cimini writes that speculation about a Bowles/Cardinals reunion swirled for months. Bruce Arians will make a decision about his future in the offseason, but Bowles excelled as Arizona’s DC before coming to New York. Cimini also notes the Buccaneers, who are keeping Dirk Koetter for 2018, were a team the Jets knew would’ve been interested.
- One of the reasons the Jets kept Bowles was the team’s surprisingly competitive season with several little-known players thrust to the forefront because of the offseason veteran purge. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link) Bowles doing more with less was not lost on ownership.
- The Patriots‘ decision to unload Jimmy Garoppolo at the trade deadline hasn’t been fully embraced within the organization, with Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston reporting some felt the team should have pushed the situation as far as it could go — possibly into 2018. While trading Tom Brady was not a broached subject, Curran notes, his age and Garoppolo’s talent made some in Foxborough want to keep Garoppolo as an insurance policy. While that would have been a tricky process, given the $23MM franchise tag’s involvement, Garoppolo is likely going to be tagged after a breakout showing with the 49ers.
- Mike Pouncey‘s severe hip injury — one that he’s said will induce a hip replacement at some point in the not-too-distant future — prompted one doctor say his career was over, the seventh-year center said (via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald). However, the Dolphins center made it through 15 games this season. Despite Pro Football Focus grading Pouncey as the league’s No. 25 center this season, Beasley notes the snapper is one of Adam Gase‘s favorites and can expect to be back in 2018.
- PFF graded Jets guard Brian Winters as one of its worst offensive linemen this season, and the fifth-year player revealed why that might have been the case on Saturday. Winters said (via Twitter) he tore two midsection muscles in Week 2 and tried to play through the maladies the rest of the way. The recently extended lineman will undergo surgery. The Jets placed him on IR earlier this week.