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James Harrison claims Mike Tomlin gave him 'an envelope' after dirty hit in 2010 Browns game

Hit left WR Mohamed Massaquoi with concussion
James Harrison, Mohamed Massaquoi
Posted at 5:36 PM, May 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-16 17:37:13-04

CLEVELAND — There’s not much that gets more heated than the rivalry between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers but a former player claimed that he was encouraged by his coach for a dirty play—a claim the team fervently denied.

James Harrison, the former Steelers linebacker with a slew of controversial hits in 2010 and throughout his career, made a problematic claim about a hit that left former Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi with a concussion and Harrison with a hefty fine.

A recent guest on Barstool Sports’ Going Deep podcast, Harrison discussed the hit against Massaquoi and said that head coach Mike Tomlin gave him “an envelope” after he was fined $75,000 for the hit.

"The G-est thing Mike Tomlin ever did, he handed me an envelope after that," Harrison said on the podcast. "I'm not going to say what, but he handed me an envelope after that."

The helmet-to-helmet hit was not flagged in the game, but the fine was just one of many Harrison racked up that season. In the same game, Harrison knocked out Browns wide receiver Josh Cribbs with yet another helmet-to-helmet hit.

Harrison added to his comments on the hit against Massaquoi, digging himself further into a problematic pit.

"On everything I love, on my daddy's grave, I hit that man with about 50% of what I had and I just hit him because I wanted him to let loose of the ball," Harrison said. "If I had knew they was gonna fine me $75,000, I would have tried to kill him."

Steelers president Art Rooney II issued a statement denying Harrison’s claims that Tomlin ever handed him an envelope after a fine, according to the NFL.

"I am very certain nothing like this ever happened," Rooney said. "I have no idea why James would make a comment like this but there is simply no basis for believing anything like this."

Harrison later tried to clarify the comments he made on the podcast, assuring that Tomlin’s payoff wasn’t to injure players and said it wasn’t comparable to “Bountygate” where members of the New Orleans Saints were accused of paying bonuses (bounties) for injuring opposing players between 2009 and 2011.

The former linebacker posted the following on Instagram in response to articles written about his statements on the podcast:

Wow y'all really comparing what I said to BOUNTYGATE?!? Mike T. Has NEVER paid me for hurting someone or TRYING to hurt someone or put a bounty on ANYBODY! If you knew the full story of what happened back then you'd know that BS fine for a Legal Play wasn't even penalized during the game. The league was getting pressure because the first concussion lawsuits were starting and they had to look like they cared about player safety all of a sudden. Before that they had been SELLING a photo of THAT SAME PLAY FOR $55 on the NFL website with other videos of the NFL'S GREATEST HITS that the league Profited On back then.

When the league had to start pretending like they cared about player safety they took all those things down off their website and they started fining guys ridiculous amounts for the same plays they used to profit off of. EVERYBODY knew it - even these same media people and all the fans that were sending money to me and the team to cover the fine. AGAIN AT NO TIME did Mike T. EVER suggest anybody hurt anybody or that they'd be rewarded for anything like that. GTFOH with that BS!!! #receipts

Camryn Justice is a digital content producer at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Twitter @camijustice.