Veteran Linebacker James Harrison Retires After 15 NFL Seasons

New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison left tries to fight through a block by New York Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday Dec. 31 2017 in Foxborough Mass

New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison left tries to fight through a block by New York Jets wide receiver Jermaine Kearse during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday Dec. 31 2017 in Foxborough Mass

Harrison ranked No. 7 in the National Football League on the list of active sack leaders. He indicated that spending more time with his family played the biggest role in his decision. The five-time Pro Bowler and 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year announced on Instagram he is stepping away from the game following a 15-year career.

He also appeared in the Super Bowl in 2011 with the Steelers and in February with the Patriots.

"I've missed way too much for way too long. and I'm done", Harrison wrote ion the Instagram post, along with pictures of his children.

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With his career now over, Harrison can begin polishing up the speech he'll deliver in Canton, Ohio.

And what did Harrison do with his newly found free time? He returned to Pittsburgh after injuries decimated the team's linebacker group and in his second act became a valuable leader on the field and elsewhere, often including teammates in his draining (and well-documented) offseason workout regiments in Arizona.

Harrison, who turns 40 next month, retired for the first time in August 2014, only to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers less than a month later after the team's defense suffered a number of injuries.

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At a position where few last into their mid-30s, Harrison continued to thrive. He had 10 tackles, 3.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception that day against Baltimore.

The Steelers released him late in the season to make room for offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert, who was being activated from a suspension.

Harrison quickly signed with the New England Patriots.

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