James Harrison calls Goodell ‘a crook and a puppet’

Steelers linebacker James Harrison calls NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “a crook and a puppet” and criticizes Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during an explosive interview that will hit newsstands Friday.

In excerpts posted online Wednesday by Men’s Journal magazine, Harrison criticizes Goodell and the league for the way it hands out fines for hard hits.

The outspoken linebacker was docked $100,000 by the NFL last season, including $75,000 for hits on Browns receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi.

On the issue, Harrison told the magazine:

“What I tried to explain to Goodell, but he was too stupid to understand, is that dudes crouch when you go to hit them. With Massaquoi, my target area was his waist and chest, but he lowered himself at the last possible second and I couldn’t adjust to his adjustment. But Goodell, who’s a devil, ain’t hearing that. Where’s the damn discretion, the common sense?”

He added: “My rep is James Harrison, mean son of a [expletive] who loves hitting the hell out of people. But up until last year, there was no word of me being dirty — till Roger Goodell, who’s a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. If that man was on fire and I had to [urinate] to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.”

The comments come at a time when the NFL and its locked-out players seem close to signing a new collective bargaining agreement that should lead to a full 2011 season.

Harrison appears shirtless in the magazine and is holding two pistols in a crossed-arms pose reminiscent of a popular video game cover. According to the excerpts, he also criticizes Roethlisberger’s performance in the latest Super Bowl.

The Steelers quarterback threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown, and Pittsburgh lost to the Green Bay Packers, 31-25.

Both Roethlisberger and Harrison have won two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers.

About the interceptions Roethlisberger threw against the Packers, Harrison said: “Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the [defense] to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.”

Harrison, who has undergone two back surgeries this offseason, also told the magazine he “should have another ring.”

“We were the best team in football in 2004, but the Patriots, who we beat during the regular season, stole our signals and picked up 90 percent of our blitzes (in the AFC title game). They got busted for it later, but, hey, they’re Goodell’s boys, so he slapped ’em $500,000 and burned the tapes. Was he going to rescind their Super Bowls? Man, hell no!”

Harrison criticized Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall for fumbling too much, while praising safety Troy Polamalu for his spirituality and style of play.

“You know, he gets more flags than anyone on our team but never gets fined for nothin,” Harrison said. “He’s so polite and talks so softly that he could tell Goodell to kiss his [butt], and Goodell would smile and say thank you.”

Mendenhall tweeted a link Wednesday to NFL rushing statistics that showed he fumbled just twice in 324 rushing attempts last season. He also said on Twitter: “I don’t have a problem with what [Harrison] said because I know him.”

Steelers president Art Rooney II said in a statement that he hasn’t seen the Men’s Journal article and hasn’t spoken to Harrison.

“We will discuss the situation at the appropriate time, when permitted once the labor situation is resolved,” Rooney said in the statement.