On Wednesday afternoon, Marvin Lewis referred to James Harrison as a “very respectful bully.”
“He’s going to be gruff about everything he can be,” said Lewis when asked to clarify. “That’s his fun. We spend a lot of time together and guys have to have fun. That’s his fun. To always be on edge – to keep people on edge.
“He’s had an exceptional career. You can’t take anything away from James Harrison’s career. He’s won, he’s been a great player, and he helped a team win championships. Guys like that eventually end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.”
Harrison’s upcoming return to Pittsburgh for the first time since leaving the Steelers is one of the big storylines this week. And yes, the five-time Pro Bowler and 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year kept me “on edge” in this one-on-one interview for Sunday’s pregame show on the Bengals Radio Network.
This is your first trip back to Pittsburgh. Is it going to be emotional for you?
Not at all?
I’ve already had a chance to see those guys here, so it’s going to be no different seeing them there.
Before that first game you got a little choked up talking about Dick LeBeau. What is it about that relationship that meant so much to you?
He’s more of a father figure than he is a coach. He has a real tight bond with a lot of us players – former and present. He’s not just a coach.
You were in for 87% of the defensive snaps last week. Are you happy with the way your role on this team is evolving?
Yeah, it’s a good thing. I’m starting to get a chance to get out there more, learn more of the defense, and get an opportunity to play a little more. That’s part of getting comfortable.
This team has lost a lot of key pieces on defense and yet you’ve continued to play at a very high level. How have you done it?
Each guy that is behind a starter we call a “starter in waiting.” When he gets his opportunity due to the misfortune of somebody else, he’s got to come in there and step up. We want him to play to the level – if not better – than the person that he’s replacing. Right now I think we’ve got guys that are stepping in and continuing to play at a high level.
You’re an Ohio guy who played in Pittsburgh for a long time – how do you feel about December weather?
I like December weather. I’m used to it, so it’s no big deal.
This team is two games up with three to go in the division race. How do you avoid looking beyond this week?
It’s simple – you don’t. Nobody looks beyond this week. We’re playing the Pittsburgh Steelers and that’s our focus. I couldn’t even tell you who we play after that.
You’re in the first year of a two-year deal with the Bengals. Do you think you’re going to be playing beyond next year?
I don’t know. We’ll see how my body feels.
How does it feel right now?
It’s alright right now. I’m not having to do too much with it. It’s getting to be where I’m getting opportunities to be out there a little more and I’m liking it. My body is feeling fine.
Is this team what you expected it to be, or are the individuals in this locker room different than you anticipated?
Nothing was expected other than I thought that I was coming to a team that could contend for a championship and that’s what I’ve got. That’s what we have right now and that’s what we are going to continue to strive to do.
Last year’s Bengals/Steelers game in Pittsburgh was one of the more physical ones that I recall watching. Is that what we should anticipate this Sunday?
I think every game is going to be a physical game just because we’re in it. So yeah, I would expect a physical game.
I think when you signed with Cincinnati, a lot of folks wondered if you would add “swagger” to the defense. Do you think you have?
I don’t know. You would have to ask them.
What does the word intimidating mean to you?
It means nothing because I’m not intimidated by anything.
Do you think you intimidate others?
You would have to ask them.
I find you a little intimidating from a reporter’s standpoint. Do you like to give that image?
It’s not an image that I’m trying to give off. I guess it’s just my natural body presence.
Do you think there’s a misconception about your image?
There’s a misconception about a lot of people’s images. If you see a person on TV and all you get fed is a certain image than you’re going to believe it. So for people who don’t know me and just know of James Harrison the football player – yeah they’ll believe it. But for those who know me, understand me, people that I love and love me, they have a whole different image of me.
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