Early on Monday morning, James Harrison announced his retirement from the NFL in a post on his Instagram profile. Harrison, who will celebrate his 40th birthday on May 4, cited family as the primary motivation behind his retirement.
James Harrison Retires From NFL After 15 Seasons
James Harrison. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of opposing defenses and bolsters the courage of the faithful in the stands. In his career, he has recorded 793 total tackles, 84.5 sacks, 34 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, and eight interceptions. As the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time franchise sack leader, Harrison chiseled out a name for himself in the NFL after going undrafted in 2002.
Harrison, standing at 6’0″, 240 pounds, was passed up in the 2002 draft for being too light and too short to play linebacker. The Steelers signed him to their roster, where Harrison spent most of 2002 bouncing around the practice squad. He was released three times during his inaugural NFL season. The rookie linebacker struggled, being described by James Farrior as “a knucklehead that didn’t know the plays.”
In 2003, Harrison signed with the Baltimore Ravens and was sent to play with NFL Europe’s Rhein Fire. After being cut by the Ravens in 2003, Harrison considered retiring from football. The Steelers re-signed him late in the 2004 off-season to replace an injured Clark Haggans. He made his first NFL start in 2004 against the Cleveland Browns. Harrison played the next eight seasons with the Steelers, making himself a valuable asset to the Steelers defense. His 100-yard touchdown return after picking off Kurt Warner in Super Bowl XLIII became the longest interception return in franchise history.
During the 2013 off-season, Harrison was cut yet again because cap reasons demanded that he take a pay cut to stay with the team. He spent a single year as a Cincinnati Bengal. Before the beginning of the 2014 season, Harrison retired as a Pittsburgh Steeler, but injuries called for his return to Pittsburgh. He played the majority of the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons with the Steelers.
On December 23, 2017, Harrison was released by the Steelers once again. The veteran linebacker had reportedly been promised playing time for his 14th season with the franchise, but only saw 29 snaps through the first 12 games of the season. In the days following his release, no team opted to claim Harrison off waivers.
Once the waivers cleared, rumors began to surface that Harrison had been seen at Logan Airport in Boston and subsequently in meetings at Gillette Stadium. He signed a one-year contract with the New England Patriots on December 26, a decision for which both Steelers fans and players maligned him. Harrison was part of the underwhelming Patriots defense that allowed four touchdowns to Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles. In four games with the Patriots, Harrison registered ten total tackles, two sacks, and one forced fumble.