by Rob Joyce
James Harrison is no cheerleader. That was the message from the 39-year-old after the Steelers released him and subsequently signed with the other AFC favorite, the Patriots. It’s a classic Belichick-ian move: a team releases someone that didn’t play – Harrison only played 29 snaps all season – and New England picks up that person off the scrap heap and gets production.
Though the Steelers and Patriots aren’t classic “rivals” they are the class of the AFC, and this only adds to the torment that Pittsburgh fans have had at the hands of the Pats. Harrison now joins this company of players who left one team and wound up signing with a hated rival:
The legend’s “will-he-or-won’t-he” drama with his retirement eventually became too much for the Packers, as they were ready to hand the reins of the offense to Aaron Rodgers. After an okay 2008 with the Jets (22 touchdowns, 22 interceptions), the Hall of Famer wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats, so he went to Green Bay’s rival, Minnesota. In 2009 he took the Vikings agonizingly close to the Super Bowl, before the wheels fell off in 2010 and Favre retired.
Rodman was part of the “Bad Boy” Pistons that won back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 and tormented Michael Jordan in his early years with the Bulls. Eventually Chicago got over the hump, beating Rodman and Detroit in the 1991 playoffs in starting their first three-peat.
The Hall of Famer left Detroit in 1993, spending two seasons with San Antonio, before he went to Bulls in 1995. In three years with Chicago he won three more titles, which would have seemed unfathomable at the start of the decade.
Jacoby Ellsbury & Johnny Damon:
The two stories are awfully similar. Speedy Red Sox centerfielders, both with World Series championships in Boston, signed with the hated Yankees when they became free agents. In Damon’s case, in May 2005 he said “there’s no way [he] can go play for the Yankees”, then in December signed a four-year deal.
As for Ellsbury, after the Sox took home the 2013 title he penned a $153 million deal to put on pinstripes.
The defensive lineman was nearly unstoppable in his six seasons with the Vikings. In 2011 he set a team record with 22 sacks, a half-sack short of the NFL single-season record. Alas, after he had 11.5 sacks in 2013 at age 31, he left Minnesota but stayed in the NFC North when he signed with Chicago. His age 32 season saw his sack total cut in half before he was traded to the Panthers three games into 2015.
Another former Boston stalwart to bolt to the Bronx, Boggs his .259 in 1992 in what became his final season with the Red Sox. That winter he signed with the Yankees, where the future Hall of Famer proved he was far from washed up. In five years the third baseman made four All-Star games, won two Gold Gloves, hit .313 and won a pair of World Series championships.