James Harrison is known for a lot of things, almost all of them related to punishing poor souls who happened to be in possession of a football while in his vicinity. He's made a handsome living out of tackling people, although to his credit he does it better than just about anybody on the planet. Harrison's style of play has also caught the attention of NFL rule makers who, depending on your perspective, made an example of him to the tune of $100,000 in fines last season (small victory: the league returned $25,000, so there's that).
Turns out, Harrison is also thoughtful. He may disagree (vehemently) with the recent rule changes, but it's not because his intent is to injure and maim opponents and the NFL is now making that more difficult. It's that the rule changes don't make sense in his mind and he tweeted as much last week.
"I'm absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots."
Presumably, Harrison felt like he needed more than 140 characters to make his case so, like teammate Rashard Mendenhall (for completely different reasons), he started a blog.
"I want to make it clear that I am all for player safety. I don’t disagree with all of the rule changes," Harrison begins. "But come on…REALLY? Now you have to wait until a guy catches, or even worse, you have to let them catch the ball before you can even attempt to tackle him. Along with that, you cannot let any part of your helmet or facemask touch any part of them basically from the chest up. If you are following the letter of the rules exactly, now most tackles, if not ALL tackles can be flagged, fined and/or result in ejection from that game, or future game(s)."
If you're able to separate Harrison the football player from Harrison the author, the man makes a good point. He was just getting warmed up.
"I understand the intent behind making the rules, but in their attempt to make the game safer, they are actually clouding what is allowable. Even the referees are confused. A close look will show you that the referees were calling things that were not even supposed to be called, and NOT calling things that were actually illegal."
Harrison also suspects that the name on the back of the jersey has something to do with how often a player is penalized. And he fleshes out his "people making the rules at the NFL are idiots" tweet with the following observation: "After my meeting this past fall with Roger Goodell, Ray Anderson, and Merton Hanks and some others, who I now have absolutely no respect for (to keep it PG), I definitely believe there is no equality in their enforcement of these rules."
Leaves little room for interpretation. Then again, as Shutdown Corner's Doug Farrar notes, "Harrison's point of view [is] quite a bit deeper than, 'The rules guys are idiots,' though it doesn't exclude that point from being correct as well."
Finally, Harrison acknowledges that the quarterback clarification rule (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 13) "is a great change," but closes with one more parting shot. "I wonder why the NFL is suddenly coming down so hard on player’s safety issues. I can’t help but think it’s not actually for the safety of the players."
Conspiracy theorists might tell you that the NFL is laying it on thick with the rule changes to not only show they care about player safety, but to say at some point in the near future, "See, thanks to our foresight, there are fewer concussions and serious head injuries … which clearly means we should expand the season to 18 games!" Even though, you know, fans emphatically oppose expanding the schedule.
“When it comes down to it, it’s an assumption of risk that you take when you play the game,” Harrison said during a recent appearance on ESPN's NFL Live. “If it’s not worth it to you, then you get out of it."
Makes sense to us. Coal miners face inherent risks associated with mining coal. You take precautions, make it as safe as possible, but at the end of the day, people in that line of work face danger every time they clock in. Some have long, injury-free careers, and some aren't as lucky. Some decide that the hazards aren't worth it and find other means of employment. That's all Harrison's saying.
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