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: Nov 21, 2011
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:28 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Hey MCR i think Steele got it right you are an IDIOT! you dont tackle with your head you use one shoulder or the other! not an easier way to hurt yourself or someone else than use the helmet... that is the whole concept of the rule

so anatomy has nothing to do with proper football tackling


Since: Dec 12, 2010
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:27 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Well what can I say.

Since: Sep 16, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:26 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

MCR if you do not understand the basics of tackling then you need to quit watching football, your too stupid to be watching the game.

Since: Sep 16, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:25 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Look people, especially you ignorant Steeler fans, Harrison lead with the helmet, arms were not extended to make a tackle, Harrison was looking for a take down using his head, not making a tackle. Football basics 101, the first thing kids are taught in 5th grade is you tackle using your shoulder pads to the chest, extending your arms to wrap them around the player, just football basics. Harrison was either completely taught wrong or he just does not give a flip. There is not 1 person that has played or coached football that teaches or was taught to tackle with your head.

Since: Nov 4, 2007
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:21 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

How can you lead with shoulderpads you effing tard when your head is infront of your shoulders. You should watch who you are calling an idiot when you don't even understand basic human anatomy..

Since: Mar 30, 2008
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:20 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Is this the Lingerie Football League?  Roger hates James Harrison.  It's personal.  He should not be involved in any disciplinary action involving Harrison from now on.  Let someone else decide, like a committee of former players.  QB's should just wear the red jersey during the games and put flags around their waste.  Harrison had been clean all year, and he gets no credit for cleaning up his act.   If a QB goes into a slide or ducks into the tacklers helmet, then how is contact avoidable?  Every player goes into the NFL knowing the risks.   Once the league started to wear pink to support breast cancer (a noble effort, but c'mon, pink!), then the league became a momma's league, and now takes the momma's point of view, which is "don't hurt my baby".  

Since: Oct 20, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:18 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

One game is just a complete joke! This guy repeatedly just lowers his head and tries to drive the crown of his helmet through people and has been warned and fined about such behavior several times and gets 1 game...WOW! But Suh steps on a guys arm and doesn't even hurt the guy and gets 2 games...I don't get it!

Maybe they're just gonna wait untill Harrison paralyzes or severly injurs someone before they really try to get through to this meathead! And for all you idiots that think he did nothing wrong...are you kidding me? This has nothing to do with the NFL being a sissy league, this has to do with Harrison clearly lowering his head and smashing the crown of his helmet into the face of Colt McCoy. There is just no room for that in the NFL!!

Bottom line, just tackle with your head up Harrison and it's all good!!

Since: Sep 22, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:17 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Hitting a defenseless player in the head with your helmet after you launch yourself at him isnt what football is about. Harrison still has not learned this. He could have easily used his shoulder in the chest but choose not too. A dirty play that only results in injury.

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:16 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

In the same game, Rashard Mendenhall was brought down with a helmet to helmet hit that was similar if not more vicious than this hit.  No penalty, no fine... no mention of it in the media.

The reason:  you are allowed to tackle a running back in such a way.  At least that is what the CBS announcers stated during the game.  The only players that are protected by the rule are quarterbacks and receivers (any player catching a pass).

Harrison clearly interpreted the rule the same as the CBS announcers in his postgame comments.  Since left the pocket and advanced to the line of scrimmage as a runner, the rules should treat him as a runner.  Therefore, Harrison tackled him in exactly the same way the Browns hit Mendenhall.  The NFL has created so much confusion and it seems they are letting the media determine their fines & penalties.  If helmet to helmet contact is ruled illegal for runners, than the NFL should say so and then this fine/suspension would be acceptable.  In this case, however, it makes no sense.  The quarterback can stay in the pocket or slide to end his forward progress (to avoid being hit as a runner.)

I watch football most weekends and the interpretation of the rule(s) changes depending on the announcer or official working the game.  Football is about toughness... except that the NFL is again targeting the team that best represents that toughness.  Last year, Big Ben was not found guilty of any charges... yet he was suspended four games.  The Steelers rallied and made the Super Bowl.  Poetic justice will come this year when they overcome the fines and penalties to win Super Bowl XLVI. 

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: December 13, 2011 1:16 pm

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

The NFL is trying to change the mindset of the players, just block and tackle your man. It would have been just as easy for Harrison to throw a forearm into Colt McCoy's chest, and then try and track down the guy who McCoy threw the ball to, but he decided to do what he did. Sometime in the 1980's the art of tackling was lost. Defenders started to just throw there weight at a ball carrier instead of wrapping him up and make a tackle. Everyone wanted to see a big hit, and we ended up where we are now, and the NFL is trying to clean it up. Remember back in 1989 when baseball umpires were calling an extraordinary number of balks. Eveyone was up in arms saying that the game was going to hell in a handbasket, because these umps were calling balks. Once pitchers made the adjustment everything was fine, and this too will pass once defenders make the mindset to tackle and not to mame.
It's funny that Steelers are at the forefront of this rule, when they were the ones crying about the Raiders back in the 1970's when George Atkinson and Jack Tatum were playing safety, and making hits that they called extreme. You can have hard hits that are legal, I would tell the Steeler fans to watch the game just 2 weeks ago against the Bengals when Adam Jones hit Mike Wallace, and Reggie Nelson hit Antonio Brown. They were solid in the "strike zone" hits.

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