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: Aug 19, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:45 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

The suspension implies intent.  Suh was suspended for clear intent.  Haynesworth was suspended for clear intent.  Harrison was suspended . . . because he's James Harrison.
And the problem with being James Harrison is that he has a well earned reputation for "illegal" hits.  It isn't just what he did last year, it is his career as a whole.  He has been fined 6 times and now suspended for his hits. No matter how you want to spin it, the Harrison/McCoy hit was crown of helmet to facemask.  It was clearly illegal.  If a player repeatedly does something that is illegal, to the point of injuring or potentially injuring other players, the league really has no choice but to escalate the punishment.  He doesn't just try to tackle players...he punishes them.  When done legally, this is fine.  Unfortunately for Pittsburgh and himself, too often Harrison comes in too high and/or too late. 

Did every one of Harrison's hits which drew a flag/fine deserve the ultimate punishment?  Probably not.  Take away a couple of prior personal foul hits and he still deserves a suspension for the McCoy hit.  McCoy had thrown the ball and Harrison hit him hard, high, and late.  Just can't do that to qbs anymore.  XFL might have allowed it, but that didn't work out.  Stick with MMA if you want to see guys getting knocked out.

Since: Aug 20, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:40 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

At least let Harrison play in the MNF matchup against the 49ers.  Sitting out the Lambs game should be required as those wussies need to be protected.  I`m Sam Bradford...don`t hit me I`ll break or cry.  Let em play NFL, McCoy was out of the pocket and running downfield. If you don`t slide you will get your head handed to you.  Clay Mathews II won`t ever get a suspension and he definitely would have hit McCoy just as hard. 

Since: Aug 30, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:30 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

When you tackle someone, how can you do so without leading with your head?  Try bending over and not have your head infront of your torso.  It is impossible.  To lead with your shoulder pads, you would have to turn completely sideways to make a tackle.  The issue is keeping the head to the side of the runner or ball carrier and wrapping up.  A textbook tackle and one that is still legal is your helmet on the football as you drive through with the shoulder later coming in contact with the torso.

I do agree it was an illegal hit.

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:23 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Just an interesting note to the "Unbiased Cleveland fan":

This is James Harrison's first infraction this year.  You are very quick to crucify - unbiasedly, of course - but fail to recognize that he has actually adapted his playstyle.  But don't let facts get in your way.

Was it an illegal hit?  Clearly, though that distinction is often very fluid in interpretation around the league, resulting in further disadvantage to the defense.  But I digress.  The hit likely deserves a fine - arguable, but we'll let it go on the premise that the rule was broken.  The problem is the suspension.  The suspension implies intent.  Suh was suspended for clear intent.  Haynesworth was suspended for clear intent.  Harrison was suspended . . . because he's James Harrison.  He hits hard, plays aggressively . . . but so do a lot of NFL players.  Now we add a suspension and he's a headhunter.  It doesn't wash.

While you piously decry the play of James Harrison, and petition the rest of us to look at the replay honestly, I'll put it back to you.  Go back to the plays in which he was fined last year, and measure by your own "unbiased" criteria.  You tell me how much of that $100,000 was just, or because it was James Harrison and/or the player that he was hitting.  That's a very significant challenge to accept, if you're looking to truly be impartial, because it's on that foundation that you're predicating your defense of the suspension.

Since: Oct 10, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:16 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

There is ambiguity in the ruling.  We all know that helmet to helmet contact is against the rules, but helmet to helmet is legal within the confines of a runner.  When the quarterback leaves the pocket and tucks the ball there is a possible intent to run.  With the emergence of the Wildcat and now the option play becoming a noticable with players like Tebow and Newton the rules must be adjusted so that the quarterbacks understand their risk as well. 

Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 3:06 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

XenuAteMyBabay, that was a very well worded post! But that has got to be the biggest homer post I have ever seen! If you truly understand the need to protect players then you surely understand why that play was outlawed and why this clown Harrison needs to figure it out!

You come across as a smart guy but that is one stupid post!!

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:58 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

When I first heard of this penalty handed down by the dictator commisioner, I thought it was weak. It was originally reported that Harrison would lose a $73,500 game check if suspended. Unless I have my facts backwards (due to reading multiple sources) it will be more in the 100k+ realm, making it a little harsher. Here's my opinion on this, rules apply to all. No game is worth serious injury and just because the fans enjoy the smashing hits, we should not sacrifice these athletes. Yes, they all know what they are signing up for and the possible ramifications within, but they still have to live and function outside of the sport. Now when it comes to Harrison he has built a track record for this type of play. Regardless of if he thinks he's not guilty of breaking rules or intentionally hurting people, his play speaks for itself. A lot of other players have been reprimanded and found ways to change their style of play to avoid further sanctions. What is his problem? Emotions, competitiveness, and passion run at full throttle in sports no question. And maybe some of the above mentioned track record was for hits that shouldn't have been taken as intentional. BUT, everyone in favor of Harrison needs to look at the replay a few more times. Yes, McCoy left the pocket making himself a runner. Yes he is available to tackle once he does so. Not by a long shot did Harrison even attempt a tackle. He had time to think, position, and go for the kill. There was no form to his "tackle", he did not use his arms to wrap. He did not get low, and he lowered his helmet in an attempt to decapitate McCoy. He deserves a higher tier of punishment with everytime he commits the same infraction, bottom line. He needs to retire if he cannot go back to fundimental football methods and go lower. I am a Browns fan, but it's not about hat. We love a heated rivalry (if you can even call it that anymore, seems more like 2 free wins a year for each AFC north team) but Browns players don't look to hurt anyone, or at least it seems. I am not on the field, I am just a spectator, but anyone can see that this is a cheap shot and Pittsburgh is running out of excuses. 

Since: Jan 20, 2009
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:53 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Look, I grew up in Pittsburgh so my opinion is certainly biased. But I don't care to talk about the Harrison hit as it is a futile exercise in these overwhelmingly adolescent forums. Steeler-Haters are as prevalent and vocal as Steeler fans these days. (That's what happens when a team is good for the better part of two decades.) But I don't blame the haters since the complexion of the Steeler fan has also changed drastically with this new, ignorant and over-confident generation. We Steel-City fans used to be generous,  cautious in our expectations and generally respectful towards our competition. But the under-30 crowd is cut from a different cloth. They embarrass me and my contemporaries and I understand people who despise some of our fan base.

My problem is the rival commenter stating that the art of tackling was lost sometime after the 1980's. I can only imagine these posts are from a younger generation who never saw anything but a few highlights prior to the 1990's. I was 5 when I went to Super Bowl IX with my Dad and was indoctrinated at a young age to football - and the Black & Gold. I vividly remember the abuse the offensive players in particular received in the 70's and 80's. And not just Steelers players, but all superstars from those times...

I remember Ted Hendricks of the Raiders demolishing Bradshaw and cheering wildly...
The SI cover of Bradshaw sliding for a 1st down in the rain, with a bloodied, bandaged forehead, as the Oilers beat him to a pulp...
The Browns defender body-slamming Swann into unconsciousness, mocking the high-five of Stallworth and Swann with a teammate...
No penalties were called on these plays and there was celebrating on the field as these players lay prone and concussed on the field.
Hence, tackling was NOT an 'art' in that era. It was smash mouth, crush the opponent and do your damnedest to knock the skill players (QB and WR's) out of the game. This was the accepted modus operandi of defenses in those days. And it was beautiful.

I understand the need to protect players as more scientific evidence comes to light on the long-term effects of concussions and devastating hits. But let's not pretend the players of this new generation are doing something that has never been seen before. I'm referring to the hits only. Childish behavior like stepping on arms and faces with cleated shoes has no place in this game, then or now, and Haynesworth and Suh are a disgrace to the game.
Comparing them to Harrison and other hard-hitting beasts is misguided at best.
When I see Raven defenders and other power defenses knock the Steeler players silly with questionable hits under the new rules, I don't get angry. I admire this type of play and think the league is in fact becoming your mother's NFL where the yellow flags are shades of the white flag of surrender. This game is war my friends. And in wars people get hurt.

I admire teams like the Packers, Saints and Patriots for taking advantage of the rules that are now in place. But, unlike Prisco and many others, I do not think this fast-paced all-offense-all-the-time style of play is superior to the olden days of yore when defense ruled the day. The NFL is quickly turning into the Arena League.
You used to have to have a balanced team to go deep in the playoffs. But teams like the aforementioned Packers and Patriots are Super Bowl contenders and have no defense to speak of. I agree with the poster who said we should put red shirts on the QB and flags on their waists if we keep this up. It is the logical conclusion to Godell's twisted idea of what the NFL should be. Shameful.

Since: Dec 13, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:50 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:46 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

The NFL is losing. Losing what it was built on just like everything else these days. Im not a steelers fan but this was crap. Players are not forced to play they play at there own risk. A risk anyone who has played or plays knows is there. Players are not forced to play they play at there own risk. I know its hard to believe that hitting is part of the game anymore but it still is atleast i think it is. I can see Suh's stupidity being penilized but this was just a straight up clean hit.

Your right...players are not forced to play and they do play at there own risk. And getting hurt is part of the game, and hitting is part of the game as well! But if you think that was a good clean hit, you are a complete moron! That was a possible career ender...get a clue!!

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