Blog Entry

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Posted on: December 13, 2011 10:49 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 5:27 pm
Harrison's physical style finally caught up to him. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The NFL announced Tuesday that Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been suspended one game for his hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy last Thursday night,'s Mike Freeman confirms.

Harrison can appeal the NFL's ruling, but based on head coach Mike Tomlin's comments Tuesday afternoon, the team is planning to be without him in San Francisco. 

James Harrison suspended
"We have to prepare as if he is not going to play, of course," Tomlin said, according to the Twitter feed. "We will move forward, James will move forward." 

More Tomlin, via the Rapid Reporter Chuck Finder: "We're disappointed. We're disappointed for James because we know how hard he's worked to play within the rules, [but] he has to be accountable for that so we accept the judgment rendered by the league office." 

While the Steelers are planning to be without their Pro Bowl linebacker, Harrison's agent says he will appeal. 

"James and I will have a discussion and figure out our next step," agent Bill Parise told the Post-Gazette. "The procedure would be to appeal. James and I will work through that and ask for an expedited hearing because we're dealing with a suspension. 

"My job right now is to continue to read this and talk to my client and he and I together will make an intelligent decision and we'll move expediently." 

It was Harrison's first roughing-the-passer penalty of the season. A year ago, he was fined $100,000 for flagrant hits on then-Titans quarterback Vince Young ($5K), Browns' receiver Mohamed Massaquoi ($75K), and Saints quarterback Drew Brees ($20K).

At the time, Harrison said "I don't know. I guess try and be more aware about the placement of my face mask. I don't know how you tackle someone and not use any part of your head, especially if you're trying to see what you're hitting. I mean, your face mask is going to touch them."

On Monday, Harrison said he shouldn't be suspended.

"I don't think it's suspension-worthy," he said after practice, according to Finder. "I don't think it's worthy of anything, but that's just my own personal thoughts."

CBS' NFL insider Charley Casserly beaks down James Harrison's hard hit on Colt McCoy.

The NFL determined that the hit was illegal because even though McCoy had tucked the ball to run, and had taken five steps before deciding at the last second to throw the ball, he's still considered a quarterback and afforded the rules that protect them. At no time during the play was McCoy, in the league's eyes (and according to the rules), considered a runner.

"They didn't even call helmet-to-helmet; they called roughing the passer," Harrison said. "He took off running with it and, at the last second, he like chuck-and-ducked. He tucked the ball and made like he was about to run. So I was going to tackle him."

CBS Sports' Charley Casserly said Sunday that ignorance of the rules wasn't an excuse.

"The league office told [Harrison]: next infraction, escalating discipline, including a possible suspension," Casserly said on The NFL Today. "Head coach Mike Tomlin went to the league office this year to do what I call 'a review of the rules.' From the league's point of view, there's no excuse for any Steeler not knowing the rules."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King thought there might be a chance Harrison would avoid suspension:

“A league source tells me there will be one major mitigating factor in deciding whether to suspend or fine Harrison and that is this: Colt McCoy took five full strides with the ball as a runner, leading Harrison to believe that he could hit him as if he were a running back. I believe he should be only fined and not suspended.”

So would Harrison change anything on the play that left McCoy with a concussion?

"Knowing I got a penalty, yeah I would have did it differently," he said.

Harrison missed four games earlier this season with an eye injury. Pittsburgh went 4-0 over that stretch with some combination of LaMarr WoodleyLawrence TimmonsJason Worilds and Chris Carter taking snaps at the two outside linebacker positions.  Woodley, who suffered a hamstring injury against the Patriots on October 30 and has been on the field for just a few series since, is set to return against the 49ers

Shortly after the NFL's ruling, Harrison tweeted: "Thank you to all my fans and supporters, I'm just going to move on from here and get ready for my next game." 

In all likelhood, that next game will be on December 24 when the Steelers host the Rams

Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark was fined $40,000 earlier this season for a hit on Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson (head coach Mike Tomlin was said to be furious about the punishment). Troy Polamalu was also fined, once for a horse-collar tackle in Week 1, and again in late October for using a cell phone on the sidelines during a game.

                                                                                                                                                                                          (Getty Images)
This is only the third time NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has suspended a player since replacing Paul Tagliabue in 2006. Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games after stomping on the head of center Andre Gurode. Ndamukong Suh was suspended two games last month for stepping on the arm of a Packers player.

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Since: Dec 13, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:39 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

I am not familiar enough with the NFL rule on roughing the passer to comment on that aspect of the foul, but I don't think it matters whether McCoy had the status of a passer or a runner. It was still a head-to-head hit. I don't think it was egregious; Harrison did not lead with his head and use it as a weapon, but Harrison could clearly anticipate where McCoy's head was going to be. It then became his responsibility to avoid head contact. Had McCoy abruptly ducked and Harrison was leading with his hands or shoulder, it could have been a no-call as an accidental hit. Officials generally don't pass on head-to-head hits unless they occur very close to the ground (below normal knee level). When in doubt, they are told to call it. The League is more likely to support flagging an accidental hit than passing on a true foul.

I don't believe it was intentional, but it was a foul. As a first offense it's understandable and excusable, but with Harrison's track record, he deserves no sympathy. His initial comments such as "I don't know how you tackle someone and not use any part of your head, especially if you're trying to see what you're hitting." indicate he just doesn't get it.

Since: Sep 22, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:33 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

I'll bet Goodell was the biggest pansies growing up and now he is making the NFL a pansie league so he can cope with his own deficinecies of being a man.  He is single handedly ruining one of the greatest games thre is.  I am tired of watchin a defense that is handstrung just so the NFL can put more points on the board.  This league is becoming the next NBA where no one plays defense and they just let teams go up and down the court and score.  The NFL will soon follwo the demise of the NBA and lose a geat number of fans if they keep going down this path.

Since: Feb 20, 2009
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:32 pm

Typical GODell nonsense

McCoy waited, for the competitive advantage of trying to trick Harrison, to decide to throw the pass at the last split second, instead of running. The hit happened to be helmet to helmet -- so give him a fine under football's new soft rules. Suspension for THAT type of hit (split second in the moment) is ridiculous. It should be for flagrant and deliberate actions, not split second actions on a player such as McCoy trying to "play" Harrison on whether he is going to run or pass.

Since: Nov 21, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:23 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

oh Mutt u just opeed up a whole can......


Since: Nov 21, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:22 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

hey coldsteel Mendenhall is a RB and the rules are totalling different- unfortunately! i think the rule should be the same but the problem is that would required interpretation of what would be normal contact or pre meditated and continual leading with the helmet. Many players careers are going to be cut short due to the advances in modern equipment. Helmets are too hard and serve as weapons. How about elbow pads in hockey, they used to be cloth now they are hardened plastic any wonder why there are so many severe injuries in modern sports! Seems the players dont repect each other or their health so unfortunately Goodell is going to have to for them. I am a detroit fan and wasnt happy when Suh got 2 games but that is the rules and he needs to learn as a repeat offender - JUST LIKE HARRISON!

Since: Sep 19, 2007
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:18 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

How much more of the j a ck o f f are we going to have to endure?  He's a dirty player and an ignorant idiot on top of it.  Enough already....kick his dumb a s s out of the league

Since: Oct 1, 2007
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:14 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

@TRUTH, I just watched it again and again and again on ESPN.  Right before Harrison hits McCoy (who was standing straight up, ball out of hand), he lowered the helmet, crown on the chin and then raised his head.  At least that is what the replay showed, over and over and over again.  But who knows, maybe all those angles were wrong.

Since: Dec 28, 2009
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:09 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

If you want to win in sports, any sport you have to play on the edge. Playing by the rules spells loosing. All good teams break the rules without getting caught. Harisson and the Steelers have pushed the envelope, they are being closely watched. That being the case Steelers management should insist that players abide by these rules. Problem is the Steelers are 10 and 3 because they play on the edge. If you look at all the succesfull teams they all play this way. Its a win at all cost world, and lossing is not an option. At one time and maybe even today teams paid all fines occured by players.  $100,000 is a cheap price to pay for keeping your job and maybe a championship. Goodel and his white Knights are doing a job and you need rules enforced. These rules have to be enforced fairly and with consistancy. With 32 NFL teams and roughly 2000 players I am sure there are more infractions that deserve fines and suspensions than just 3 defensive players. The Steelers will do just fine with or without Harisson. They are deep in linebackers. But remember they are under the microscope , more so with Harrison and Clark on the field.

Since: Dec 11, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:09 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

ADULLIN: At least someone else saw that hit. For the rest of you posters! I'm not whinning like others suppose, but I find it convient that Goofdell suspends the man before a national television game, with major playoff implications! It's not the calls, it's the timing of them. I'm not saying the refs are picking on anyone team. This is point shaving of the worst kind! This man is not going to be happy till he brings the league down in disgrace. Sure it was an illegal hit, fine the man and be done. Harrison has cleaned up his act since last year. I forgot, everyone calling for his head is perfect, they never make a mistake! Yes I played football, all through grade school and highschool, as a RB I had my bell rung a few times. Next time I got the ball I tried to dish out punishment, rather then take punishment. STOP BEING A BUNCH OF DRAMA QUEENS! It'sbad enough Goofdell is one.
      I still don't hear any comments on the Mendenhall hit! Maybe the people who are saying watch the game should do the same! I have seen many hits that are far worst then this and there not even flagged. These are not hits on Steelers, these hits happen every game. To single out Harrison, Suh, Clark to name a few is just more of GOOFDELL'S commie bastage PC. Get over it McCoy will live! 

Since: May 2, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 6:08 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

it's not his fault that he can not comprehend the gravity of this behavior. it is the fault of the nfl commisioner for allowing players with severe mental disorders to play and risk the lives of others. this is not a one time thing. mike tomlin can not control him and neither can godell.

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