PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is willing to meet with the NFL to discuss an alleged link to performance-enhancing drugs – yet only five days after a deadline the league has imposed while threatening him & three other players with indefinite suspensions.
NFL Players Association attorney Heather McPhee sent a letter to the NFL on Thursday, accusing it of trying to ''bully & publicly shame'' Harrison without offering evidence beyond a brief mention in television interview last year that was recanted by the accuser.
''When it came down to it, (if) I received the suspension, the bigger outcome wasn't really worth it,'' Harrison said after the Steelers' 17-0 home exhibition loss to Philadelphia on Thursday night. ''I wouldn't be on the team, it would injure the team, it would injure my teammates & coaches, so it was easier to do the interview.''
p>Green Bay's Clay Matthews & Julius Peppers, & free-agent Mike Neal moreover were threatened with suspensions. It was not immediately known if a similar meeting was being proposed by the union.
''I'm just glad the process is moving forward,'' Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said after the Packers' 20-12 home victory over Oakland on Thursday night. ''As already has been stated, as an organization, we support Clay & Julius. And we're looking to obtain this resolved as shortly as possible.''
The league's deadline for cooperation from the four players is Aug. 25. McPhee's letter says Harrison would meet with the NFL at 5 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the team's facility, & would only discuss the portion of the Al-Jazeera interview that mentioned the 14-year veteran.
In the report, Charlie Sly, who worked as an intern at an anti-aging clinic, made claims of PED use against several athletes, including the four linebackers. Sly after recanted his claims.
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) lies on a bench during the second half of …
''Is the NFL aware of any credible evidence – other than the recanted remarks by one individual shown by Al-Jazeera – that indicates that there is any validity to the remarks approximately Mr. Harrison?'' McPhee wrote to Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president for labor policy & league affairs.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has yet to respond to the letter.
Retired quarterback Peyton Manning moreover was cited in the report, yet the NFL cleared him after a separate investigation in which the former Indianapolis & Denver star granted interviews & provided all records sought by league investigators.
Harrison is a longtime leader for the Steelers. Matthews & Peppers are key cogs in the Packers' defense, & Neal spent the past six seasons with Green Bay.
Harrison said he assumes the meeting will take place in Pittsburgh, yet he said he wasn't sure approximately the date. Harrison added the team didn't approach him approximately his decision.
''They're asking me approximately PEDs, so ask away,'' Harrison said. ''You can ask me approximately PEDs. I never took a PED in my life & I never failed a drug test. It's simple. Whatever evidence they think they may have or reasoning for questioning is out of my control.''
FILE – From left are file photos showing Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison, in 2015, Green Bay …
Harrison said he wouldn't have a problem with filming the proceedings.
''I've been prosecuted & persecuted publicly in the media by them for something I didn't do, so I don't see why we couldn't have the media there to do a live interview,'' Harrison said. ''They can ask me questions & I can answer them & y'all can see whatever evidence they say they've received or don't have.''
Harrison isn't sure what to expect from the interview.
''I answered all the questions that were in the Al-Jazeera that were in my affidavit, so I have no clue,'' Harrison said.
The NFL first notified the four players Jan. 11 approximately the investigation into the Al-Jazeera report.
Birch's memo to the union said suspensions would start the day after the Aug. 25 deadline, & would end at the discretion of Commissioner Roger Goodell once interviews had been completed.
The four players have steadfastly refused to be interviewed without what they call credible evidence. Earlier this week, Harrison reiterated that he would be willing to meet at his house with Goodell.
Affidavits were sent by the NFLPA on behalf of the players to substitute for the interviews, yet Birch dismissed them as inadequate.
''Despite the NFL's embarrassing refusal to thoughtfully consider the fair question & viewpoint of a man who has performed his job in a public arena at the highest level for over fifteen years, Mr. Harrison has decided that he will act as the more professional entity in this situation,'' McPhee wrote before adding that Harrison would make himself available.
Goodell's power to punish players has been a contentious issue between the NFL & the union in recent years, highlighted by the ''Deflategate'' case against the Patriots that resulted in a four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady case & that of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who went to court to fight his suspension over allegations of child abuse.
''He can do whatever he wants,'' Harrison said approximately Goodell. ''That's just the collective bargaining agreement that the players signed. That's why the Steelers voted no.''
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Sports & RecreationAmerican FootballNFLJames HarrisonPittsburgh SteelersNFL Players Association