James Harrison was retired for less than three weeks, but it's been eight months since he was in football shape and the 12-year veteran was feeling every second of that time off after his first practice Wednesday with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Before, I said 2-3 weeks,'' Harrison said. "But now I'm looking at 3-4 weeks. ... There's more to it than working out, and there's a big difference between being in shape and football shape where you're going up against somebody 40-50 pounds heavier than you.''
Harrison appeared to be a little thicker than usual, but still solid and ripped. He admitted that he added 10 pounds, but believed a few more workouts like the one he got Wednesday would easily knock that off. It's those intense workouts, however, that caused Harrison to not miss the NFL too much in recent months and nearly kept him from returning to the Steelers.
"I talked with my mom and dad, and I talked with my boys,'' Harrison said. "But this is my second family here, with Keisel, Ike, Troy and them. And the consensus was for me to come back. So, it's hard to turn down family, and I came back. (But) it's safe to say that it's going to be just for one season.''
Harrison did not know what his role would be with the Steelers, but there clearly was interest from the club and his former teammates. Harrison said that Brett Keisel made the initial contact about returning, and head coach Mike Tomlin also was at the forefront. Ike Taylor and Troy Polamalu also played a role.
"I have no aspirations and no goals,'' Harrison said. "I'm just trying to make it till tomorrow. (But) if my boys had said no and stuck with it, it wouldn't have mattered what Ike and Troy said. I wouldn't have come back."
"(But) I'll keep what was said between me and my boys. ... Sure, you miss your teammates and being with the guys, but I'm not missing it right now. Maybe I'll miss it after we get a game or two in, but I really didn't miss it.''
Harrison noted that he never was told why he wasn't brought back to Cincinnati after one season there, but he really didn't have much interest in returning because the trip to Pittsburgh to see his kids was getting tedious.
"Trying to see my kids from there to here was hard,'' Harrison said. "(But) I did all right, considering the role that I was in. I was in our base defense, but we didn't stay in that too much. Teams came out and kept us in a lot of nickel, so I didn't get a lot of snaps because of that.''
Harrison acknowledged that there were a lot of new faces on the Steelers since he last played for them in 2012, although "it was still family,'' and the climate of the NFL has changed as well with domestic violence at the forefront. Harrison allegedly was involved in an incident in 2008, and the Steelers stood by him. Things might be different nowadays.
"I can only speak about myself,'' Harrison said. "Right or wrong, everybody makes mistakes, and I'm learning that now.''
Harrison, who closed his retirement press conference by thanking Roger Goodell for being his biggest adversary, declined to comment on the NFL commissioner's current situation.
"I have no thoughts on that,'' Harrison said.
Maybe Harrison has changed his ways but it remains to be seen how much. Most assuredly, his legacy won't suffer from this one season, but the ending to his career certainly will change.
"It's going to rewrite the ending,'' Harrison said. "Let's just see what happens. Let's see what the ending's going to be.''