James Harrison didn't make new friends with a collection of caustic comments in a recent magazine profile, but recently-retired linebacker Mike Vrabel doesn't believe the outspoken Steelers All-Pro should be fined or suspended for harsh words toward NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Vrabel was a call-in guest on WEEI radio in Boston on Friday, where he said the NFLPA "would have an issue if (Harrison) were suspended or fined."
"I know that James Harrison is a heck of a player and one the Pittsburgh Steelers and their fans and their coaches probably really enjoy and are glad that he's on their team," he said. "As long as his teammates are fine with it, we support him as an association."
Vrabel has been an active presence on issues of player rights, making him qualified to speak on the subject of Harrison. The former Steelers, Patriots, and Chiefs LB was one of 10 players named as a plaintiff in the Brady et al v. the National Football League et al antitrust lawsuit filed in March.
Vrabel said it was clear that many of Harrison's comments about Goodell were not meant to be taken literally. Harrison called Goodell an anti-gay slur, "stupid," "puppet" and "dictator" in the August issue of Men's Journal.
"Do you think that Roger Goodell is a crook? I don't think that anybody would read that and think that he's somehow taking the money that James Harrison is fined and putting it in his pocket. I don't think anyone believes that," Vrabel said. "I think it was said as, 'Man, this guy is taking money from me, he's fining money from me and my teammates and players around the league.' And that money is going to charity and it going to a good cause. But there are certain things that are said that you kind of just have to take it at 30,000 feet and move on."
Vrabel thinks Goodell can handle the criticism.
"Roger's got big shoulders, Roger understands," Vrabel said. "I would say to Roger or anybody else that had a problem with it, I would say what Bill (Belichick) said to us: To (those who) much is given, much is expected. And Roger is given a lot in form of compensation and being in the situation that he's in so there's a lot expected of him. And if that means taking the higher road and calling James and trying to figure out how to get this thing settled between them or whatever issue they have going on."
Vrabel confirmed last Monday the end of his 14-year career and that he had taken a job as linebackers coach with Ohio State University, his alma mater. The position was previously held by his college roommate and teammate, Luke Fickell, who was elevated to interim head coach when Jim Tressel resigned May 30.