Let's address some of the things I've heard in support of Harrison. First, someone in the Steelers organization tried to throw Harrison a life preserver by leaking the tidbit that Harrison fears flying. Harrison's teammate
Then there are those who believe this is yet another example of the media taking a nothing story and running with it for the sake of a juicy headline, of crucifying a player for a decision that, at the end of the day, really isn't a big deal. If you feel that way, fine, consider this a column written by a former player rather than a member of the media, a former player who dreamt about winning a Super Bowl and envisioned what the parade, White House visit and ring ceremony would really be like. The post-championship festivities are a big part of what makes winning a championship so special and I have railed in the past against players like
Harrison, of course, has every right to not attend the event and to speak his mind about his choice. That's part of what makes this country so great. I'm disappointed in his decision, but it's his decision to make. Still, his public comments on the matter have been so ridiculous that someone has to call him out. What's that expression about keeping your mouth shut and letting people assume you are something rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt? Kind of seems like that applies here.
Harrison implied that President
Harrison's decision does not appear to be political in nature, but such a stance would have made some type of sense. If I were Harrison, if I inexplicably didn't want to attend such a prestigious event, I think I would have gone with the fear of flying excuse or simply kept my mouth shut.
Fortunately, most if not all of Harrison's teammates felt differently.
Even the normally loquacious left tackle
Hopefully, somewhere, James Harrison was listening. That would sure beat him talking.
There, that's off my chest. Now onto your e-mails ...
I don't think the majority of NFL offensive linemen really care about that stereotype. If you've made it to that level and are making a great living playing professional football, you're largely held in high esteem, even if people feel you only have the job because you were blessed with great size.
The fact is, there are thousands and thousands of guys out there who stand 6-foot-3 or taller and weigh over 300 pounds yet never make a dime playing football. Size is just one factor. The two characteristics you mentioned, athleticism and intelligence, are at a premium for every offensive line roster spot in the NFL.
I don't recall seeing a player smoking a cigarette, though I'm sure it happens. Seems pretty counterproductive to me. However, snuff tobacco, or dip, is popular among some groups of players, usually linemen. Guys mainly use it as a stimulant to keep them focused during the long meetings they have to sit through all day. Call it linemen's coffee.
For players who choose to go that route, alcohol will always be the substance of choice. But I sense excessive drinking is trending downward because of the effects it can have on decision making as well as the recent research that illustrates the negative impact alcohol can have on a player's body and recovery time. Why spend so much time building a body up just to tear it down?
If executed correctly and with the right personnel, a 3-4 offers a better run front and more options from a pressure standpoint.
The key to the 3-4 from a run perspective is having outside linebackers who can effectively "set the edge," which really means stuffing the tight end or the offensive tackle from outside-in and forcing the runner to cut back inside toward the other six defenders who are maintaining their proper gap discipline.
As for the offensive lineman's perspective, it really depends on the position and the player. Personally, I preferred going against 3-4 defenses. If the defensive lineman is attempting to "two-gap" the offensive lineman by holding his ground and controlling the gaps on either side, he's usually not penetrating into the backfield, and that's really what I was most concerned about because a quick penetrator can really make you look bad. I liked the predictability of the 3-4 defense, which is usually so fundamentally sound that opposing lineman can anticipate technique and don't have to worry about the unexpected.