In his 9½-minute introductory news conference with Cincinnati Bengals reporters, linebacker James Harrison brushed off a question about his opinion on quarterback Andy Dalton, acknowledged he's motivated by his release from the Pittsburgh Steelers, and revealed a very expensive training habit.
Harrison estimated that he spends between $400,000 to $600,000 on "body work." There's a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, a homeopathic doctor, a trainer and two to three masseuses. They stay with him during the season. Does Harrison live in a house or a day spa?
Don't get me wrong. Taking care of your body is smart for every football player, especially at 35 years old. Harrison, though, has gone to the extreme. I can't believe anyone else comes close to spending this much on his body. But not everyone tries out 150 massage therapists either.
Let's put this in perspective. If Harrison spends $600,000 on his body this year, that's more than what three Bengals starters will make this season: linebacker Vontaze Burfict, wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and guard Clint Boling. If Harrison spends only $400,000, that's still more than one-quarter of his $1.4 million salary this season. That's before taxes and the annual fines from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
No wonder Harrison objected to taking a pay cut with the Steelers. As we all know, it's hard to find a good homeopathic doctor on the cheap.
"If you want to be able to stay in this business for a while, you're going to have to take care of your body," Harrison said. "You want to do that, you're going to have to spend money. It's not cheap."
The Bengals are hoping Harrison's investment in his body pays off this season. Harrison missed only six games in his first seven NFL seasons. Over the past two seasons, he has been sidelined for seven games because of injuries.
“I probably haven’t felt this good since ... the beginning of 2009," he said.
Here are some other nuggets from Harrison's news conference:
On his view of Andy Dalton as a quarterback: "I don’t have a view. Next question.”
On the motivation of not being able to stay with the Steelers: “I understand it’s a business, so it’s not like I can really take it personally. But to say that it doesn’t motivate me in some sense would be a lie.”
On his definition of AFC North football: “I don’t know now. They’re starting to throw the ball. It used to be smashmouth. I don’t know what it is now; it’s a combination of the two. But it’s a rivalry of four teams that genuinely don’t like each other, but have a mutual respect.”
On whether he ever had to fight for food being the youngest of 14 children: “I got lucky. I’m like eight years removed from the next sibling. Wasn’t nobody eating no more baby food. I had all the jars to myself.’’
On his mental state on the field: "It’s focus. It’s intense. It’s violent. Because it’s a violent game. You can’t go out there with a smile on your face. I’m not out there mad at the world, making up scenarios in my head just so I could go out there and play a little harder. It’s focus and intense 100 miles an hour."