If James Harrison‘s claims regarding former head coach Mike Tomlin are going to be investigated by the NFL, it’s not going to happen anytime soon, according to New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. Payton addressed the issue during a wide-ranging interview on Thursday afternoon, talking to Jason La Canfora and Ken Weiman on the Inside Access on Sports Radio 105.7 The Fan.
While the conversation didn’t begin with discussing Harrison’s comments, Payton was asked about the issue because he and his organization were investigated by the NFL for a headhunting incident several years back. The Saints head coach has long claimed the league was wrong in punishing himself and the team and believed the findings were inaccurate. Now he thinks it’s unlikely Roger Goodell and his lieutenant are well equipped to look into the claims made by Harrison against Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin.
“If people are waiting for the league to investigate that, they shouldn’t hold their breath. I think what took place back in 2011 in so many ways was a sham and yet, there wasn’t a lot we could do with it. You know the players were vindicated, but from a league or coaching standpoint, there’s no union, there’s no representation. But I would be shocked if… that will be something that will be tucked away or under the rug at Park Avenue. They’ll look at it briefly… look don’t get me started.”
Payton added that he’ll never get over the way the headhunting investigation was carried out. It wasn’t entirely clear how his belief that he was treated unfairly was connected to the idea that the league wouldn’t look into Harrison’s claims.
The former Steelers linebacker made headlines earlier this week when he said Tomlin “gave him an envelope” after a devastating hit to Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010. ESPN‘s Brooke Pryor reports Harrison told the Going Deep podcast about the event.
“The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that [hit]. I’m not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that.”
Harrison was fined $75,000 for the hit, an amount he says was the most he was ever fined by the NFL. Massaquoi suffered a concussion, though the play was never flagged.
Despite the claim he was given some sort of reward for making the hit, Harrison also said he didn’t believe it was a dirty play. He said he hit the receiver with “only about 50 percent” of what he could have done. He added if he’d known the play would be fined he would have “tried to kill him.”