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James Harrison, NFL write compelling final chapter to colorful story

PITTSBURGH -- After more than $100,000 in fines for big hits and a general distaste for commissioner Roger Goodell, you'd think James Harrison would be eager to taste sweet victory over the Al-Jazeera case that links the Steelers' linebacker and three other active players to performance-enhancing drug use.

Harrison makes clear it's not about that. A victory wouldn't be nice, or personal, or sweet.

He's clearly irritated he's even doing the interview. The NFL just has a way of turning Harrison grumpy.

"No, it won't be nice, because I had to go through all this s--- I shouldn't have to anyway," Harrison said.

Harrison's relationship with the NFL always seems strained. Harrison doesn't agree with the way the league does business, particularly Goodell's power over discipline. He was on the 2011 Steelers roster that voted against the current collective bargaining agreement. He's called Goodell a few names as a result, including a "crook" just last week.

Harrison even requested earlier in the summer that Goodell himself conduct the interview at Harrison's house, of which the league would never oblige. It was a funny request nonetheless.

But if the league clears Harrison, which the player fully expects, it will mark a tidy ending to a contentious journey for the two.

At age 38, Harrison would be free to finish his football arc on his own terms, which punctuates a more low-key twilight to Harrison's career. From 2008-10, Harrison incurred six fines for on-field infractions totaling $125,000. Only cornerback Cortland Finnegan incurred more fines.

Since then, Harrison hasn't accumulated those same fines. He played briefly for the Bengals, came back to the Steelers and continues to prolong retirement, playing more snaps than any other Steelers outside linebacker last year. He's thoughtful in interview settings. Harrison generally seems to be enjoying his final years.

He wants to keep it that way.

"They are going to clear my name and give me the same send-off they gave Peyton Manning," Harrison said. "I'm going to be cleared. They are going to give me the same thing, flash, across the bulletin board, NFL, Instagram, Twitter, all that -- James Harrison cleared."

Manning and Harrison have different relationships with the NFL, but at least inside the Steelers' locker room, Harrison garners just as much respect as Manning.

Harrison said he doesn't know why the league didn't accept his request to do the interview at his home, or his follow-up letter through the NFL Players Association that the interview take place on Aug. 30. But all that won't matter once -- and Harrison says "once" without a doubt -- he's cleared.

Then, he'll go back to Instagram videos of himself throwing around obscene weights.