Former Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison is now officially a member of the Cincinnati Bengals as of Tuesday and he talked to the media via conference call earlier today.
Harrison, who spent nine seasons in Pittsburgh, admits he doesn\’t quite know yet how to feel about the change.
“I wouldn\’t say it feels strange,” Harrison said. “I guess when that time comes, I\’ll have a better understanding or feeling of exactly what it will be then. I\’m just happy to be able to continue playing.”
Following his March release, several speculated that the former Defensive Player of the Year wanted to specifically remain in the AFC North in order to get back at his former team, but Harrison attempted to dispel that notion during his talk with reporters after signing a two-year contract with the Bengals.
“There was no significance in staying in the AFC North,” Harrison said. “My thing was I wanted to play with a team that was competitive and had a chance of winning a Super Bowl. I felt like [defending champion] Baltimore and Cincinnati were those teams.
“The second thing I wanted was to stay close to home. I currently live in Pittsburgh and that\’s where I\’m going to reside. I really didn\’t want to have to go farther away than I had to.”
As far as the notion that Harrison now hates the Steelers, the veteran linebacker shamed the media for running with a story that really was never there and noted that he was more disappointed than anything else.
“I don\’t have a chip on my shoulder against the Steelers,” Harrison said. “I don\’t hate the Steelers. All the things they\’re saying, that the media is blowing it up to be … am I disappointed? Yeah, I\’m disappointed. But when the negotiations first started, I basically knew the situation was going to be what it was going to be.
“I wish them the best, except for when we play. And I\’m assuming they wish me the same, except when we play them.”
As far as Harrison now being forced to play in the Bengals 4-3, as opposed to the Steelers 3-4, the soon-to-be 35 year-old linebacker said the Cincinnati defense is very similar in alignments and coverages that he was accustomed to playing in Pittsburgh, but he did note that he expects he\’ll be switching sides more now.
In addition to everything else, Harrison thinks that he is now the healthiest that he has been in several years.
The Steelers won\’t have long to wait to see Harrison in a Bengals No. 92 jersey as the two teams are scheduled to meet in Week 2 on Monday Night Football in Cincinnati.