A claim from former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison about head coach Mike Tomlin and an envelope has rousted memories of the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal for some.
The head coach involved in the decade-old scandal has some thoughts on it as well.
Sean Payton says NFL will sweep James Harrison’s claim under the rug
During an appearance on the “Going Deep” podcast, Harrison was asked about the biggest fine he received in his fine-heavy career. His answer was his infamous hit on Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, which led to a $75,000 fine from the league.
Then, unprompted, Harrison had this to say:
“Listen, everything I love, on my daddy’s grave, I hit that man with about, max, 50 percent of what I had, and I just hit because I wanted him to let loose of the ball. If I had known they were going to fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him. Dude, I’m telling you, 75?
“I ain’t going to lie to you. When that happened, right? The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that. I ain’t going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”
Harrison didn’t disclose what the envelope contained, but people didn’t have to use much imagination to know what he was getting at.
If Tomlin were to have reimbursed or even rewarded Harrison for his fine over a helmet-to-helmet hit — which Tomlin said at the time was legal — that would certainly be reminiscent of the scandal that resulted in the Saints being hit with a $500,000 fine, forfeiture of multiple draft picks and a year-long suspension for Sean Payton.
Still smarting from the NFL’s handling of the matter a decade later, Payton said during a radio appearance that he doesn’t expect the NFL to handle Harrison’s claim seriously.
Payton was candid when asked for his thoughts on former Steelers LB James Harrison saying in a recent podcast appearance that Mike Tomlin handed him an envelope after a big hit on Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010. pic.twitter.com/mlVQlenCLD
— Luke Johnson (@ByLukeJohnson) May 14, 2020
The Steelers are probably hoping Payton is right, as Tomlin is still employed by the team and would likely face punishment if the league found he gave Harrison money under the table following a fine.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II said in a statement that the story was untrue and questioned why Harrison would make such a claim.
Reached out to #Steelers regarding James Harrison saying on a podcast coach Mike Tomlin “handed me an envelope” after NFL fined Harrison $75,000 in 2010 for big hit on former #Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi. This is the response: pic.twitter.com/WioCansaFX
— Nate Ulrich (@ByNateUlrich) May 14, 2020
Harrison’s agent has also denied the exchange between Harrison and Tomlin occurred.
In the hours since Harrison’s comments emerged, the NFL has declined comment on the matter, according to Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.
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