Harrison In Stripes Might Scare Everyone, Including The Bengals
By Jason Henry
When the Cincinnati Bengals chose to sign former Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison this offseason, they were looking for a player who could add more depth and experience to their already good group of linebackers.
But as soon as the ink dried on Harrison’s contract, many pundits and fans questioned the Bengals rationale in signing a 35-year old linebacker who has accumulated 612 tackles and 64 sacks in 131 career games. He was once the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and won two Super Bowls with the Steelers while in Pittsburgh.
What more can the Bengals expect out of man who is entering the twilight of his career? They expect for him to play with the same furor he did while in Pittsburgh. While wearing the black and yellow each Sunday in Pittsburgh, Harrison received his fair share of knocks, bruises and injuries, which is probably why he reportedly spends over half-a-million dollars each year on keeping his body fresh.
“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to say that I spend anywhere between $400,000-$600,000 on body work, as far as taking care of my body, year-in and year-out,” Harrison told Forbes.com. He went on to state that he rents a hyperbaric chamber and has his own homeopathic doctor. So maybe his penchant for spending so much money on keeping his body in the best condition should give the Bengals an air of confidence in signing Harrison.
Take his statistics from last season. He only played 13 games, but recorded 70 tackles and six sacks. If Cincinnati is able to squeeze that type of production out of Harrison and maybe a little more for two years, its defense should be one of the best in the AFC.
But the key in Harrison’s signing is with his health. He hasn’t played a full season since 2010 and readily admitted that he is still unable to do certain things after his knee injury last season. The Bengals obviously feel that Harrison will be ready to rock come training camp, but there has to be a small section of caution that sits in Bengals coach Marvin Lewis’ office.
Harrison is a nasty linebacker who plays with Hardy Nickerson-type of attitude. His appearance at his introductory press conference even gave off a scary disposition, because, well, he’s a scary-looking guy. It’s just too bad that a scary look doesn’t sack a quarterback or stop the run. For the Bengals, they need for Harrison to stop the leaking in their run defense.
Last season, the Bengals gave up 107 yards per game, which was good enough for 12th-best in the league. If they are serious about making it to the Super Bowl, they’ll have to get better run support from the front seven.
Seeing Harrison in orange and black stripes will probably be a little strange for some at first, but as soon as he breaks an offensive lineman down and records his first sack or two, everything will normalize pretty quickly.