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: Oct 12, 2010
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:45 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

If you think about it, over a 16 game season where there are 32 defenses taking somewhere between 40 to 60 snaps a game, even 100 of these penalties is an extremely small percentage (like hundredths of a percent) of the total plays in a season, so it's not like these rule changes are really change the game at all.  Now consider all of the defensive players that play those 40 to 60 snaps over 16 games on 32 different defenses and if you do the math you would see that the number of players fined is EXTREMELY small...that means that almost every player in the game knows how to tackle properly and isn't flagged.  Harrison was fined three times last year, has had questionable plays before, and then gets suspended for a game.  He deserves the suspension for being responsible for the majority of an astronomically small percentage of plays where illegal hits are flagged.  If you look at it mathematically it appears that Harrison is the only player that can't consistenly follow the rules.  Maybe people should consider that its not the league getting soft, but that instead Harrison just doesn't know how to play football.

And for those of you whining, this is a multi-billion dollar industry.  It is not the same NFL from decades ago.  We are now more health conscience because we know and understand more about the future implications of brain damage, and no amount of money can repair permanent brain damage or bring a player out of a coma if it ever came to that.  Why should they be subjected to potential career ending injuries or life threatening injuries?

Since: Oct 25, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:45 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Is it possible that James Harrison just isn't capable of playing LB in this league?  By his own admission, he doesn't know how to avoid violating the league's rules.  Shouldn't tackling within the rules established by the league, that just about every other defensive player abides by, be a minimum requirement for a defensive player in the NFL?  I'm not trying to hate on the man.......just asking a serious question.

I can appreciate the question, well put...  to answer if he can play LB in this league, the answer is w/out a doubt.  The guys incredible. I look at it like this (and this goes for quite a few players)... they've spent their entire life learning a game and playing it a specific way.  Changing your mechanics (after learning them at a young age all the way through the pro ranks) is a daunting task.  I think you're going to see this type of stuff continue for a very very long time. 

I watched the hit live and 3 million times on tv over the last couple weeks...  I have to agree w/ the suspension, it was a bit over the top.  All he had to do was drop his shoulder...  how do ya train someone that's been tackling that way their entire life?  Guess suspending them is gonna have to do.

Since: Dec 13, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:33 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

I find it very pecurliar that we are not hearing a peep from other NFL players or coaches on this issue.  I suppose side with Harrison and face God dell's wrath, side with Goddell and face Harrisons.  Losing prop either way.  Tomlin seems content in not crossing God dell indicating that the Steelers and Harrison will not appeal. 

Since: Apr 22, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:30 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

I'm really tired of these message board lifetime "football players". Harrison is nothing more than a thug who learned the game and proper tackling form from a thug school. You can search on any website and they all say the same thing or you can check out books on coaching and they all say the same thing.  Do me a favor and stop watching the NFL! Enough with your idle threats.  The bottom line is Harrison could have made a very hard proper tackle on McCoy without planting his helmet into McCoy's facemask, or any runner for that matter.

It isn't that hard and I don't want to hear it anymore. That thug is only going for one thing and that is to KO someone not hit them hard.

Since: Aug 21, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:29 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. Getting hurt is part of the game. Hitting is part of the game 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.

Since: Oct 23, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:27 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Didn't do anything wrong? Have you ever heard about "helmet to helmet?" Suh gets a two game suspension on a play where nobody gets hurt or even misses a play, while Harrison lays out McCoy with a concussion and sits one contest. The NFL is a joke. Harrison is a headhunter who will learn nothing from this... other than the fact that he continue to try to end guys careers knowing he'll only get a week off.

Since: Dec 3, 2007
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:27 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

jltexas:   punching someone is quite a bit different than using your helmet (to try and kill someone).

Ignoring the absurd "to try to kill someone" part of your sentence, there is quite a bit difference between a reaction where you intentionally swing at someone and the split-second where a good tackle becomes a dangerous tackle. 

What was Harrison's intent?  It wasn't to "kill someone" so let's get that out of the way, children.  His intent is to hit the guy with the ball so hard that he coughs the ball up and thinks twice about coming that way again.  Folks, that's football played at it's finest and it's a shame it is being ruined by a guy sitting in an office watching film. 

Sure, there have to be penalties for rule infractions and I fully understand the importance of protecting players' heads.  Throw the penalty and be done with it.  But to judge someone's intent five days after the event and levy a suspension for something that requires an nth of a second?  Silly.

The big issue is the inconsistencies with the penalties called on the field (somewhat forgiveable because the game moves so fast and it's a judgement call) and the post-game review.  The latter has no room for variances and Goodell has no rhyme or reason for his actions.

Since: Nov 12, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:24 pm

Change the Game or the Equipment?

Agreed. But on the otherhand, we need to look at the long term impact of the game. The men who have played the game that have suffered multiple concussions have long term consequences. One thing I found interesting is in an article on where they discuss that Pat Shurmur, the Browns head football coach, wasn't told to pull McCoy from the game because McCoy wasn't properly administered to on the sideline. Why wasn't he administered properly on the sideline? Because much of the medicl staff was already in the lockerroom with two other Browns players with concussion like symptoms.

If concussions are so common and the potential long term effects are so great, we need to do something to protect the players. But is changing the game practicle or necessary?

One one hand, there are plenty of players playing within the current rules, but I think it is agreed that the rules are getting out of hand. When you dive to tackle a scrambling quarterback from behind and you are flagged for hitting the quarterback below the waist - that's too much. On the other hand, players are bigger, faster and stronger, and we are understanding more and more about the long term effects of playing We can't let players attempt to do permanent damage to another player, like leading with the crown of the helmet into someone else's head.

But with all this talk and the attempt at making the game "safer" by throwing all these subjective rules into the game and putting more and more on the referrees, why isn't the league looking at the gear being used?

In an interview on ESPN, a gentleman (sorry, I didn't get his name) said that the current league helmets are only the SIXTH safest tested for protection from injuries like concussions. The league doesn't require the use of a mouth guard (they are required by the NCAA because of their effectiveness in protecting players from concussions). Yes, for a quarterback it does hamper calling audibles, but what about everyone else?

I think that changing rules to make the game safer is starting to cross the line: too much for the referrees to be responsible for and it is taking the game out of the game. Let's start looking at equipment that can protect the players and use what we already have and know that works. If wearing a mouth guard would help a wide receiver from getting a concussion, what is the harm in making him use one? If we have better helmets, why aren't we using them? It can't be because the league or teams can't afford them - they were just fighting over $9 billion dollars - the money is there.

Since: Aug 19, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:22 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Dicktator Goodell strikes again. Now that Al Davis is gone, the worst commisioner in NFL history has moved on to harrass and annoy the Steelers. As Al Davis would say in his Brooklyn accent, "Tuck rule, my ***". Colt McCoy was not a runner? my ***.  Goodell, lets see, instead of fining Palamalu for using a cell phone, why don't you do something about this ridiculous practice of calling time-out right as a kicker is steping up to kick? Why not end that bush leage BS? And I'm sure the NFL will package that hit in a DVD for sale on called "Greatest Hits". Hypocrite Goodell.

Since: Sep 6, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 2:19 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

this makes no sense---the hit was illegal and now you get the feeling that one player is being picked on

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