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: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: December 14, 2011 6:13 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Just one more thought, for those of you who think this was intentional.

Harrison goes through 12 games without a penalty, without a fine, without a "dirty" hit.  He plays against Brady, Schaub, Dalton, Flacco . . . all of whom are better, more threatening QBs . . . some with much more of a history against the Steelers that would bring out the ire of a "dirty" player.  (reference some of the comments Ravens players make about the Steelers)

But now, in the 13th game of the season, Harrison abandons all the NFL-proscribed control expected from defensive players (and just defensive players) in order to make sure that he takes a cheap shot at Colt McCoy?!?!  Really?  This is your theory?  If it's intentional, he has to know that he's going to, at the very least, be heavily fined.  So he intentionally, deliberately sets himself for this waterfall of criticism in order to take out Colt McCoy.

And then you say that Steelers fans are on crack.

This may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but frankly, most of the vitriole in this thread attacking James Harrison merits no more.  It blindly parrots what they've heard in the media, and spouts it forth continuously as though by ignoring any argument it gives the statement more merit.

Since: Dec 6, 2009
Posted on: December 14, 2011 5:46 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

This is absurd.............If the quarterback tucks the ball under his arm, he is a runner...... The rules do not state there is a difference if a runner is a receiver, running back or quarterback.....

The protection for the quarterback is HE CAN SLIDE.....AND NOT GET HIT....  This is a horrible call and an inconsistent call.   I have watched on 4 separate occasions Michael Vick hammered after the play or in the head.....and no call..

Since: Mar 9, 2011
Posted on: December 14, 2011 3:00 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Yeah there was some head-to-head contact, but I dont think it was intentional.  Anytime you're going to tackle, your head is going to be in front of your shoulder.  You cant hunch over to make a tackle without your head being somewhat in front of you.  I guess the rule is the rule, so I wont argue against the Personal Foul because there was some helmet-to-helmet, but I dont think the play was dirty or warants a fine or suspension.

Since: Mar 28, 2007
Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:36 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

He still did not make a proper tackle, he hit him in the head and it does not matter if the guy is a QB or a tackling dummy, you show absolutely no respect for a person or their career when you hit them in the head.  Tackle low and with your arms and shoulders like the game was meant to be played, it works just as well.  The problem with some of these idiots is their ego is to big to do it like that though.

Since: Dec 13, 2011
Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:13 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

I could not have said it any better than you explained it.  This basically comes down to Harrison reputation of being a dirty player.  This guy is not really dirty, but he is strong and physical.  With Goodel trying to to sell the NFL as being a clean game he is putting pressure on the refs to call any vicious hit as a penalty.  I seen several hit worse than Harrison's hit this past week and several came from offensive players cracking back on a defensive player.  And there were no penalty or fine given.  This league was built and advertise as a physical and violent contact sport for years.  And I understand the NFL want to protect players and be safe, but at the same time you can not take away the very fabric that made the NFL popular.  And if you going to punish guys for playing the game violent, punish everyone everytime a foul occur, not just the ones who have a reputation of being violent. 

Since: Feb 19, 2009
Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:02 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

So James Harrison hits Colt McCoy in the head with a not-so-cheap shot and gets a one game suspension. I dont necessarily agree with that...BUT Eagles DE Trent Cole throws Seahawks LT Russell Okung to the ground AFTER the whistle, tears his pectoral muscle and ends his season (also further crippling an already injury-plagued Seattle offensive line) and gets NO SUSPENSION?!?!? Explain that to me NFL...

Since: Jan 30, 2008
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:29 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

James Harrison is a piece of shiiiit.  Its easy being a defensive player.  I guarantee you if those OL would start going for his knees every week then he would have something to say about it.

Since: Sep 30, 2008
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:03 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Here's what I posted to judge's article on the matter:

First of all, twenty years ago, this hit wouldn't even have been talked about, except on the weekly highlights. That's the football I know, the football I grew up with, and the football I want. Goodell's version of NFL is a bunch of crap to me.

Second, for the people saying it was a late hit, a defenseless player, and a head shot, if he hadn't hit Colt in the facemask, would it have been anything? It wasn't late or a defenseless player. He was running with the ball. Had Harrison not been there, he would have ran and got the first down. When Colt realized he wasn't going to make it, he pulled up and threw the ball. It wasn't like he was waiting to catch the ball and didn't see Harrison coming. He saw him, that's why he threw it. He wasn't defenseless. And it wasn't late. The only thing you can say was it was a blow to the head.

Third, everyone says he deserves the suspension because of his reputation. But his reputation has been created since Goodell. Remember, the NFL voted him Defensive Player of the Year. Some of the fouls he got last year weren't even fouls. But because of that laundry list of fouls, or supposed fouls, he needs to be taught a lesson. Had he not been penalized for his hit on Fitzpatrick and another one that escapes me right now, his rap sheet isn't that bad to merit a suspension. But it's the Goodell paranoia microscope that makes everything he does ten times worse.

Fourth, he isn't a dirty player like Suh. He doesn't get personal fouls for fighting or stomping or ripping helmets off. He gets penalized for things related to his job description - hit people. Tackle people. So I don't characterize him as dirty like Suh. His hits may be outside of current rules, and when he violates the rules, throw the flag. Fine. But you would have to say he is scrutinized way more than others.

If anyone else had hit Colt in the same manner, there wouldn't be an outrage. So are we concerned with Colt's safety, or who is doing the hitting. Is it safety driven, or sterilizing what the NFL is about. If it's safety, then it doesn't matter who hit McCoy, and there should be no bias when doling out punishment. It should be the same for everybody.

Also, someone else pointed out how Heath Miller takes a bunch of illegal hits. I remember last year when he was being tackled and someone else came in and hit him high in the helmet and bent him backwards, but not even a flag was thrown (I think against Baltimore). 

Finally, the rules are so arbitrary. I've seen many games this year where flags are thrown for pretty legit hits, and then no flags are thrown for a supposed defenseless receiver. It's just a farce at how it's handled. And now we've become conditioned to look for a flag on any big play or big hit. This is a better NFL? Really?

Since: Oct 2, 2011
Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:45 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Harrison was suspended because this is not his first, second, or even third infraction. He clearly led with his helmet and placed it perfectly into McCoys facemask. Yes Colt could have been considered a runner, but Harrison still led with the helmet. Runner or QB, the rules are clear and I am baffled that Harrison is appealing this suspension, especially given his history. He claims that McCoy ducked, but the replays clearly show that he did not. As soon as I saw the hit for the first time, "Suspension" was the first word that came to mind. Yes some of these incidents go unnoticed, but the refs are not going to catch everything, al-la the face mask on Webb at the end of the Lions/Vikings game, but when you are a repeat offender, you better believe that your every move will be placed under the microscope. If he had just adjusted slightly and led with his shoulder, this could have been avoided. Change sucks, but it is obvious that this is not the way to fight it. Harrison needs to start placing his teams needs before his own.

Since: Jul 13, 2010
Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:29 am

NFL suspends James Harrison one game

Any word if Green Bay's Woodson is going to be suspended for punching a Saint player? He should have been ejected, but wasn't. 

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