Tag:James Harrison
Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:30 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 5:38 pm
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Players come to Gregg Williams' defense

Then-Jags defensive coordinator Gregg Williams signals a play during training camp in July 2006. It was a simpler time.  (AP)

By Ryan Wilson

Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was summoned to the NFL's Manhattan headquarters Monday to discuss further the league's findings that the Saints (where Williams was the defensive coordinator from 2009-2011) had a "pay for performance" bounty program that rewarded players for injuring opponents.

Williams issued an apology Friday, hours after the the news broke, and in the hours and days since everybody has weighed in on the matter. Oft-fined and once suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison tweeted Sunday: “We’ll see how concerned the NFL is about player safety when they decide what the punishment for the saints is. I’ll just say this, if that was me I would have been kicked out of the NFL!”

New Orleans' forgettable offseason
Later that day, Harrison retweeted this from teammate Ryan Clark, who played for the Redskins when Williams was the coach there: "Never in my career has a defensive coach singled out a player and put $ on his head. I've never been offered $ to put a player out of a game."

During a Monday appearance on ESPN, Clark finished his thought (via PFT.com): ‘If you knock out this guy we will give you a certain amount of money for it.’ Whether it was my head coach Joe Gibbs, whether it was Gregg Williams, I was never, ever approached to take a guy out. …

“If these things are going on, you speak up while they’re happening,” Clark said. “If you’re in a meeting and a coach comes in and says, ‘Hey, No. 16, whoever he is, if you knock him out of the game we’re going to pay you x amount of dollars.’ Then you blow the whistle then and say, ‘Look, I’m not going to be a part of this. If we continue to do this, I will report it.’ To me, that’s making a statement, that’s making a stand and that’s being loyal to all the players in this league.”

Another former Redskins defensive back, Fred Smoot, also came to Williams' defense.

“First of all I want to correct everybody,” Smoot said Monday after calling into 106.7 The Fan (via the Sports Bog). “It was never a system. And let me tell you something: this was a thing that I think started in training camp with us as players. It started off with who could get the most interceptions, who could get the biggest hit or who could get the sacks, and we took it into games."

NFL rules prohibit monetary incentives for interceptions and sacks, too. Although Williams probably wouldn't have been sitting in commissioner Roger Goodell's office Monday if that's all he was accused of. Smoot continued:

“Gregg never said take out this player or take out this player," he said. "But I’m sorry, back when I played football, we used to actually hit people. It was legal to go out and hit people. And we wanted to be the most physical team, and we wanted to inflict pain, but in no way possible did we ever want to go out there and endanger anybody’s career or take somebody truly out of the game....

“It was more or less we would start a pot in the defensive backfield of who could get the most forced fumbles or who could get the most interceptions, who could do that. It was never a bounty; it was more or less a pot that all of us players put in. Gregg never put in a dime. Gregg never came in and said do this, do this, do that. We did that ourselves, as a way to kind of pump each other up to go make more plays.”

Smoot admitted that he understood why the league might frown upon bounty programs but reiterated that “I never saw anyone paid for knocking someone out of the game. Did we as players put in pots to make plays, what we called the Big Splash Plays Pot? Yeah, we did that. WE did that. Players. That started by the captains on the team…."

Smoots remarks runs counter to a Washington Post report from Friday. Mark Maske wrote that three former Redskins players "described a coach (in Williams) who doled out thousands of dollars to Redskins defenders who measured up to Williams’s scoring system for rugged play, including 'kill shots' that knocked opposing teams’stars out of a game. 'You got compensated more for a kill shot than you did other hits,' one former player said. Compensation ranged from 'hundreds to thousands of dollars' with the biggest payout thought to be $8,000."

Wherever the truth lies, things could end badly for Williams. And to a lesser extent, New Orleans head coach Sean Payton, who had knowledge of the reported bounty program, and the Saints' organization.

If it's any consolation to Williams (and we can't imagine it is but we're including it here for completeness), Weight Watchers spokesman Charles Barkley is appalled by former players anonymously ratting Williams out.

“You have to be a punk to snitch that out,” Barkley said during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show. “That’s like giving a reporter an anonymous quote. That makes you a punk, if you do anonymous, but also, you don’t bring that out X amount of years later. I mean you don’t compete in it if you don’t want to be in it. But I’ve seen at least three or four well-known NFL players say all teams have bounties. So I’m glad they came to Gregg Williams’ defense. Because I’m pretty sure all teams have that.”

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Posted on: January 29, 2012 2:56 pm
Edited on: January 29, 2012 3:16 pm
 

Report: Pagano looks at Butler, Caldwell at PIT

Chuck Pagano reportedly is looking at Keith Butler to be his defensive coordinator (US Presswire).By Josh Katzowitz

Man, new Colts coach Chuck Pagano must have some serious respect for one of the teams his old ballclub hates the most. That would be the Steelers, and Pagano, the former Ravens defensive coordinator, reportedly will pluck another Pittsburgh assistant to be a coordinator for the Colts.

On Saturday, it was Pagano surprisingly yanking Bruce Arians out of his so-called retirement in order to make him the offensive coordinator, and a day later, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Pagano will hire Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler as defensive coordinator.

A word of caution, though: according to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Butler will interview the job Tuesday and said it’s “not a done deal.”

And in a switcheroo that only a Kirk Cameron fan could love, NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora reports that Caldwell will interview for the open Steelers offensive coordinator spot vacated by Arians.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and Caldwell spent one season together in 2001 with the Buccaneers when Tomlin was the defensive backs coach and Caldwell was the quarterbacks coach.

In Pagano’s case, the possible decision to hire anybody from the Steelers defensive coaching staff is probably a smart move -- especially considering Pittsburgh has been a top-ten defensive team in yards allowed every year since 2000.

Indy's offseason
Butler has been in Pittsburgh the past nine years, and he’s credited with helping mold James Harrison, James Farrior and LaMarr Woodley. Like Arians and Pagano, Butler worked in Cleveland in 2001, so Pagano knows what kind of coach he’s getting.

As PFT reminds us, Butler wanted to interview for the Cardinals defensive coordinator job last year but the Steelers denied him the chance. Now that Butler’s contract is up, though, it sounds like Butler -- who is largely considered the heir to Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau -- is ready for a promotion.

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Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:01 pm
 

James Harrison not fined for hit on Tim Tebow

Moral victory: His team loses but Harrison avoids fine in final game of the year. (AP/Getty Images)

By Ryan Wilson

It took a week, but the Steelers finally have some good news to report. First, safety Troy Polamalu won his appeal for the $10,000 fine he faced for using a cell phone during a game back in October. And now it looks like linebacker James Harrison won't be any lighter in the wallet for his roughing-the-passer penalty on Tim Tebow during Sunday's playoff game.

For folks even half-paying attention to the NFL, Harrison's name is synonymous with words like "dirty" and "suspension." He was fined $100,000 in 2010 for various illegal hits on unsuspecting opponents, and he the league finally suspended him in 2011 after he knocked Browns quarterback Colt McCoy silly.

But we'd like to think that even Harrison's harshest critics can agree that the flag he received for shoving a 250-pound Tebow in the back was taking things a bit far, even for NFL's Public Enemy No. 1.

Of course, no game involving Harrison would be complete if he didn't do something controversial. In the first quarter, the Steelers linebacker went low on Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker. A perfectly legal hit and probably an attempt by Harrison to live within the rules laid down by the league: stay away from the heads and shoulders of defenseless receivers. The only problem: Decker suffered a knee injury, had to be helped from the field, and he won't play this weekend, either.

Still, even Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway didn't have an issue with Harrison's play.

"Because of the fact that he's been fined so often, [Harrison] really had no other option. ... I don't think he intended to hurt Eric. But obviously because of the situations he's been in, he had to go low and stay away from the head. And it ended up costing an MCL sprain for Eric."

So while the officials may have wrongly penalized Harrison for his hit on Tebow, they also missed at least two facemask penalties committed against the Dever quarterback. Ultimately, it didn't matter. The Broncos' from-outta-nowhere high-powered aerial assault wasn't fazed by a couple no-calls or, for that matter, fancy new overtime rules. Next up: the New England Patriots who, if we're being honest, would've much rather faced the Steelers this weekend.
 
In other "hey, we aren't getting fined?!" news, the NFL confirmed to ProFootballTalk.com that Cincinnati’s Reggie Nelson, Houston’s Antonio Smith, Detroit’s Amari Spievey and the New York GiantsJacquian Williams, all flagged for personal-foul penalties last weekend, won't be required to write the league a check for their actions.


After an impressive overtime win over the Steelers last week, Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos will face off against the New England Patriots on Saturday. Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan have the preview. Watch the game on CBS at 8 PM ET. 

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Posted on: January 10, 2012 12:11 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 2:47 pm
 

Elway says Harrison's low hit on Decker not dirty

Some players might argue that the rules change led to Decker's knee injury. (US PRESSWIRE/AP)

By Ryan Wilson

On the first play of the second quarter of Sunday's Steelers-Broncos game, Tim Tebow completed a 21-yard pass to then-favorite target Eric Decker. It was a nice throw, and an easy catch for Decker right up to the moment when Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison tackled him low, collapsing Decker's knee in the process.

The Denver wide receiver ended up on the turf writhing in pain. He was helped off the field and didn't return. Literally adding insult to injury: the Steelers challenged the call, which was overturned to an incompletion. Of course, a play later, Tebow threw the first of many 30-plus-yard passes to Damaryius Thomas, and two plays after that, Denver led 7-6.

The hit by Harrison -- which is perfectly legal in the eyes of the league -- was the realization of fears many players voiced after NFL rules prohibited hitting players high. The players' thinking: it's a lot easier to come back from a high-impact collision when it doesn't involve torn knee ligaments or broken legs.

Broncos vice president of football operations John Elway knows this, and he doesn't think that Harrison's intentions were dirty. It's just the nature of today's NFL. (And we discussed it on Tuesday's Pick-6 Podcast embedded below for your listening pleasure)


"The (tackling) target is now lower," Elway said on his weekly Denver radio show on 102.3 FM Monday night according to The Huddle.

"Harrison yesterday, because of the fact that he's been fined so often, really had no other option. ... I don't think he intended to hurt Eric. But obviously because of the situations he's been in, he had to go low and stay away from the head. And it ended up costing an MCL sprain for Eric."

It's the unintended consequences of actions not thought through entirely. Yes, the NFL should thrive for making the game as safe as possible, but drastic changes don't come without ramifications. And the league can't argue that knee injuries were unforeseen because players lamented the possibly as soon as the new rules were announced.

The NFL could point out, however, that the prevalence of knee injuries haven't increased in light of the rules changes. (We write this anecdotally; Decker is the first time we remember a player suffering a below-the-waist injury on a play that, in previous seasons, might've resulted in a hit to the shoulders or head area.) The NFL could also show that even chronic offenders can change the way they play.

Harrison was suspended in Week 15 for taking off Colt McCoy's head in the previous game. 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."

And now the league has what it wants. It's just that, depending on player backlash, they might not want it very long.

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Posted on: January 6, 2012 9:32 am
 

Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit


It hardly seems fair that a 12-win team has to go on the road to face an eight-win team, but the NFL’s playoff seeding system is designed to reward division champions. That includes the rare division champion that enters the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Here’s a breakdown of what many expect to be a massacre.


1. Broncos offense has no prayer
We covered everything there is to know about the Broncos’ offense last week in preparation for their Week 17 bout with the Chiefs. Nothing has changed. It’s clear that press-man coverage can overwhelm Denver’s passing attack, as the receivers don’t have the quickness to separate and Tim Tebow doesn’t have the mechanics, timing or confidence to fit balls into tight windows.

It’s rare to see the zone-based Steelers play press-man coverage, though they did so with great success against the Patriots in Week 8. Usually, shutdown corner Ike Taylor (yes, SHUTDOWN corner) plays press coverage against the opposing team’s top wideout (in this case, Demaryius Thomas), while William Gay, Keenan Lewis and/or Bryant McFadden play a variation of zone on the other side.

If Dick LeBeau wants to bait Tebow into interceptions, the Steelers may still stick with their traditional approach:

This shot from Super Bowl XLV illustrates the Steelers’ traditional approach to coverage: Ike Taylor playing press-man against the opposing team’s top receiver (Greg Jennings) on one side, with the rest of the secondary playing zone on the other (you can tell it’s zone by how cornerback Bryant McFadden is lined up off the line and with his body open slightly towards the inside).

The Broncos don’t have a threatening tight end, so Tebow would be throwing into heavy zones against athletic corners. If LeBeau wants to pressure Tebow with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley and bait him into the usual slew of incompletions, he can play man-to-man. Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback.

Lately, Denver’s read-option run game has still produced yardage, though only because of the high volume of carries. If the Broncos couldn’t muster more than three points by running against Kansas City’s 3-4, they can’t be expected to muster ANY points running against Pittsburgh’s.

A key to Denver’s run game is getting offensive linemen clean to inside linebackers. No three-man defensive line does a better job at protecting its inside linebackers than Pittsburgh’s. That’s why Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior are able to play with their ears pinned back.

2. A roll of the dice
Because it feels a little too simplistic to declare the Broncos’ chances at moving the ball to be zero (even if they are), we’ll use this section to present creative ideas for how the Broncos might – MIGHT – manage to muster a semblance of offense on Sunday.

The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.). Don’t count on Denver doing this, though. It goes against everything John Fox has stood for since turning to Tebow, and it also requires that, you know, Tebow actually throw downfield accurately.

Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays. Problem is, a defense as experienced and disciplined as Pittsburgh’s is not going to bite. You might make chance-taker Troy Polamalu pay for a gamble once or twice, but more likely he’ll make YOU pay even more for YOUR gamble.

A third (and stronger) idea is to run the ball outside. In the past, outside running was guaranteed to fail against the Steelers. This season, however, Timmons and Farrior have not been as sharp in lateral run defense. That’s why Pittsburgh has struggled a bit against zone teams. The Broncos no longer have a zone run game (it left shortly after Shanahan departed), but it might not be crazy to hastily install one given that their usual approach will not work anyway.

Denver’s lack of running back speed is an issue here, but again: their usual approach will not work anyway!

3. Pittsburgh’s passing attack
As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense. Don’t be surprised if the Steelers come out throwing in an effort to build a quick lead that forces the Broncos to go to the air early.
 
Against the Browns last week, offensive coordinator Bruce Arians chose to spread the field with 3 x 2 empty backfield sets on passing downs. This may have been to get the ball out quickly so that Ben Roethlisberger would not have to make plays on his bum ankle. Though Roethlisberger has gotten much better in his presnap reads and sudden decision making, his natural inclination is still to extend the play. Thus, Big Ben still held the ball plenty long last week.

He won’t be able to do that this week, though – not under the same gameplan, anyway. Offensive tackles Max Starks and Marcus Gilbert may have been be able to handle Browns defensive ends Jayme Mitchell and Jabaal Sheard on an island (Sheard just barely, actually), but they won’t have a snowball’s chance against Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller.

If Roethlisberger is to buy time for his receivers downfield, his offensive tackles will need running backs and tight ends to chip-block, if not stay in completely and double-team. Something else to keep in mind: Miller, D.J. Williams and Brian Dawkins all excel as inside blitzers. Blitz pickup is an area in which the Steelers interior line, particularly left guard Chris Kemoeatu, struggles.

Brown's emerged as one of Pittsburgh's best receiving options. (Getty Images)

4. The passing matchups
Even though protection could be a problem, it’s possible the Steelers will still spread the field and let Roethlisberger run around and make plays. We’ve seen them before give up piles of sacks this way but make up for it with big plays.

The Broncos have a good secondary now that undrafted rookie Chris Harris has blossomed at nickel corner, but they’re thin and inexperienced at safety and vulnerable with Jonathan Wilhite at dime corner.

If the Broncos decide to eliminate Antonio Brown (Pittsburgh’s new No. 1 receiver) with Champ Bailey, there will be big-play opportunities for Mike Wallace against the limited-ranged safeties. If Bailey defends Wallace, Andre Goodman can spar with Brown but probably not for as long as Roethlisberger can extend the play. Chris Harris will be tested by Emmanuel Sanders’ speed, and Wilhite will have fits trying to defend Jerricho Cotchery underneath.

As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

5. Steelers run game
Rashard Mendenhall will be missed, but the Steelers can tread water with Isaac Redman. The third-year running back doesn’t have Mendenhall’s corner-turning speed and acceleration, but in confined areas he shows looser hips than you’d guess. Where Pittsburgh’s backfield woes will really show up is in the pass game. Mewelde Moore’s absence (foot injury) leaves them without a prominent openfield dumpoff receiver.

But this is a relatively minor issue. The primary job of the Steelers’ backfield is to pound the rock when called upon, which Redman and straight-line back John Clay are capable of doing. Also, Pittsburgh’s offensive line, especially with the superb pull-blocking skills of Kemoeatu, is capable of moving the pile down the stretch.

So who will win? Check our NFL expert picks for all the wild-card games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: December 29, 2011 6:02 pm
 

Colt McCoy talks to press, wants to play Sunday

McCoy

By Josh Katzowitz

Colt McCoy might end up being a pioneer in NFL history -- or at least talked about as the impetus for when the league decided it needed to curb concussed players from returning to games in which they’ve been injured. Because if it wasn’t for that hit by Steelers linebacker James Harrison on Dec. 9 and the inability for anybody on the Cleveland sideline to see that McCoy had sustained a head injury, we might not have the NFL policy that states that an independent monitor must be in the press box on game day in order to make sure team trainers don’t miss potential concussions.

But that doesn’t mean McCoy can take much solace in his forefathership. Since that hit, he still hasn’t returned to a game, and he’s barely even practiced (it seems like every day we get another report that says McCoy again was sent home from practice because of post-concussion symptoms).

McCoy's post-concussion aftermath
Today, McCoy talked to reporters for the first time since the Pittsburgh game, and really, he didn’t have much to say. According to Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, McCoy declined to talk about what he remembered from his last game and he said he’d like to play in the season finale Sunday*.

*This, I imagine, will be a tough sell to the Browns trainers, who have to be tip-toeing through the night after what happened last time he played.

Almost immediately after the Dec. 9 game, you’ll recall, McCoy’s father, Brad McCoy, ripped the team for allowing him to return to the game after it was clear to everybody but the Browns trainers that his son was punch-drunk.

"He never should've gone back in the game,” Brad McCoy said. "He was basically out [cold] after the hit. You could tell by the rigidity of his body as he was laying there. There were a lot of easy symptoms that should've told them he had a concussion. He was nauseated and he didn't know who he was. From what I could see, they didn't test him for a concussion on the sidelines. They looked at his [left hand].”

In response, Colt McCoy said he “addressed some things” with his father, but declined to talk specifically about what they discussed.

McCoy also made clear that he wants to stay in Cleveland and be part of the Browns “resurrection.”  Asked if he thought the front office wanted him to return, McCoy said, “Speculation has never gotten me anywhere. I'm a factual person.”

And what about Harrison, who said he believed he didn’t deserve to be suspended for the hit but then had to take a one-game vacation anyway?

“I really have no opinion,” McCoy said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I think the league has handled that. And I'm doing the best I can to move forward and to get healthy and get back and help our team.”

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Posted on: December 29, 2011 12:05 am
 

D'Qwell Jackson a fan of his hyperbaric chamber

By Josh Katzowitz

If you ever wanted to know why an athlete would want to sleep in a machine that looks like a big duffel bag, check out this NFL.com video of Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and his hyperbaric chamber. He is, without a doubt, a firm believer in its merits.

“A lot of guys don’t really know how well this works,” said Jackson, who suffered a torn pectoral muscle that kept him out of 26-straight games but has responded with a comeback player of the year award type season. “It’s like anything else. You have to use something enough to understand if it’s for you or if it’s not for you. It’s definitely for me.”

Jackson isn’t the first player to use the chamber -- Maurice Jones-Drew and James Harrison also are big believers -- and the people who use it extol the contraption’s ability to circulate the blood flow throughout the body that helps energize the player and keep injuries at bay.

Claustrophobics, beware. This video is not for those who fear being buried alive.

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 2:32 pm
 

Colt McCoy ruled out Saturday with concussion

McCoy will miss Week 16 with a concussion. (Getty Images)

By Will Brinson


Colt McCoy missed Week 15's game after suffering a concussion in Cleveland's loss to Pittsburgh during Week 14, and he won't play in Week 16 either, as the Browns have ruled him out for Saturday's game.

That's according to our Browns Rapid Reporter Marty Gitlin, who also notes that wide receiver Jordan Norwood (also suffering from a concussion) has been ruled out of the game.

Earlier in the week, it was believed to be "likely" that the Browns would start backup Seneca Wallace Saturday against Baltimore, even though McCoy was reportedly almost recovered from the concussion.

McCoy's injury, suffered on a nasty hit from Steelers linebacker James Harrison, generated plenty of controversy around the league. The Browns never tested McCoy for a concussion and inserted him in the game two plays after the injury, which led the NFL to institute a new concussion policy that begins this week.

Additionally, Harrison was suspended for a game as a result of the hit and later said he believed the Browns should also be punished by the NFL for failing to properly diagnose the concussion. (They weren't, and won't be.)

The Browns also placed safety T.J. Ward on injured reserve with a sprained foot, per Gitlin.


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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com