James Harrison doesn't miss 'abusing my body,' would rather be Denzel

Yahoo Sports
James Harrison is looking toward the camera and away from self-inflicted pain for his next career act. (Getty)
James Harrison is looking toward the camera and away from self-inflicted pain for his next career act. (Getty)

James Harrison played 15 seasons in the NFL.

He doesn’t miss it. The five-time Pro Bowl linebacker and 2008 defensive player of the year accomplished enough in his career. He’d rather not inflict any more pain on himself.

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“No more physical stuff,” Harrison told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday. “No more using or abusing my body to try and get the job done.”

James Harrison goes Hollywood

The two-time Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers has his sights set elsewhere since retiring last year – Hollywood. Harrison is making a guest appearance Thursday on the CBS crime drama “S.W.A.T.”

It’s his first speaking role in what he hopes will turn into several more.

Denzel and The Rock?

“I’d like to say that I have the action capacity of The Rock,” Harrison said. “And I’ve got the range of Denzel.”

Becoming a hybrid of Hollywood’s biggest box office draw and one of the most respected actors of his generation is a lofty goal. He’ll get his start by playing a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department alongside fellow former NFL players Eric Dickerson and Willie McGinest.

Harrison doesn’t have an acting background but has been working with an acting coach since last summer. He said like football, the experience on set was a grind, a process of repetition that resembles practice in that the cast and crew would repeat a scene until they got things exactly right.


James Harrison on the set of S.W.A.T. (Courtesy)
James Harrison on the set of S.W.A.T. (Courtesy)

Same repetition, less pain

“It’s repetitive,” Harrison said of shooting a scene. “The whole day was 14 to 16 hours. It’s just shoot after shoot after shoot.

“You might have to say the same lines 20 or 30 times. It’s like practice.”

Unlike practice, there was no physical pain involved. Harrison appreciates that. He doesn’t miss practice. He doesn’t miss game day. He misses “hanging with the fellas” in the locker room. But that’s it.

Harrison happy football is in the past

“The upkeep is a lot less now, Harrison said. “You still have the back pain waking up every day. … The thought of actually having to condition, to get ready to play a season or a game. It’s not ever happening again.

“I love to work out. The other stuff? Nah, I’m good.”

Harrison is one of the rare NFL players to largely leave the game on his own terms. He was 39 when he finally called it quits.

Harrison’s remarkable longevity

The football world is rightfully in awe of Tom Brady and Drew Brees playing quarterback at an elite level in their 40s.

But Harrison – whose job on virtually every down of his career was to violently collide with a 300-plus pound brute protecting the quarterback he was trying to tackle or a 230-pound running back charging forward – might have the more impressive record in terms of longevity.

Football players aren’t supposed to play into their late 30s. Football players who make their living in the trenches are lucky to last to 30.

“It feels all right,” Harrison said of his lingering pain, noting that it doesn’t go away because he’s done playing. “You can’t get away from it with a clean slate. I say I feel a lot better than a lot of people that played that position.”

For Harrison, it’s a matter of managing the pain that’s there and not exacerbating it by continually breaking down and building his body back up as football demands. Now Harrison has room in his life for less painful pursuits.

“I enjoyed it,” Harrison said of football. “I don’t miss it.”

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