James Harrison Fined For Playing Football

Here we go again.

In their never-ending quest to ruin the greatest sport on earth, the NFL has decided to crack down on hitting.  “Wait,” you may ask, “Isn’t football a game of large heavily muscled men slamming into each other at a high rate of speed?”   Yes it is.   But the NFL is doing their best to remove as much contact from a contact sport as possible.

James Harrison was fined $75,000 for his knock out blow on Cleveland’s Mohamed Massaquoi last Sunday.  It was a thing of beauty, a vicious yet perfectly clean hit.   The fact there were no flags on the play confirms that it was well within the rules.   Harrison was simply doing what players are taught to do from the time they first strap on a helmet.

Predictably, Browns fans were in an uproar over that play and Harrison’s equally clean leveling of Josh Cribbs. They even circulated a laughable petition whining because their incompetent players got jacked up.  I’m not bothered by that since it’s pretty much to be expected.   Losers cry when they lose and there are no bigger losers than the Cleveland Browns.

What upsets me is the media seized on Harrison’s actions, as well as several similarly violent hits this past weekend, and blew the issue entirely out of proportion.   The unbearable weekend wrap-up shows all beat to death a similar theme of,  “Something must be done!”   Naturally, the image conscious NFL sprang into action in the worst possible way.

The league’s chief of football operations, Ray Anderson, has declared from this point forward suspensions will be handed out for “dangerous or flagrant hits.”

Let’s analyze that wording a bit.   What exactly is a “dangerous” hit?   Call me crazy but isn’t a 275 monster crashing into you at full force a tad dangerous?  So basically every tackle is a dangerous play.  Now let’s look at the word “flagrant.”  A flagrant foul by definition is something which is obviously illegal.  If Harrison’s tackles were so clearly illegal, why did seven officials keep their flags in their pockets?

James Harrison was fined for playing the game the way it should be played.   Head coach Mike Tomlin called the plays, “Legal hits. Not fineable hits. He played good football.”  Harrison said it would be “a travesty” if he were fined.   Since the ruling came down, his agent has said he was going to appeal this miscarriage of justice.   Seventy-five grand is a decent chunk of change but I ordinarily wouldn’t worry about it because Harrison is paid to destroy and these annoying little fines are just the cost of doing business.

What does worry me is the prospect of some day losing our star linebacker for one game, possibly more, due to a suspension.   The Pittsburgh Steelers already lost their quarterback for a month as a result of an arbitrary and totally unwarranted suspension.  Now we’re facing the prospect that the next time Silverback clobbers the daylights out of somebody, he could miss games over it.   What’s worse, we’ll never know when that line is crossed because the rule is so vaguely worded, nobody has any idea what’s legal and what’s not.

James Harrison is 110% in the right on this one.   Not only were both his plays perfectly acceptable, the fact his fine is unreasonably high when there were far far more egregious rule violations last Sunday is ridiculous.  The only reason the league repeatedly comes down on him for playing football the way it should be played is they don’t find him marketable.  He doesn’t like interviews and he doesn’t like the spotlight.   Maybe he should start acting like a clown for NFL Films and on commercials like Ray Lewis so the the NFL would stop giving him these big fines.  In the meantime, the league’s punishment policies continue to be a joke.

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  • David Emery

    I think NFL needs to do a lot more on these hits, given the new information on long-term effects of concussion. But I agree fully with P-G’s Gene Collier this needs to start with the refs. Without a flag on the play, I think Harrison has every right to appeal and I hope he wins. Monday morning quarterbacking is one thing, but Monday morning refereeing should be unacceptable.

  • Jut

    @ David

    These guys get paid millions to take these hits. There’s a reason these guys are professional athletes. NFL is not for the weak-hearted. Harrisons hit was not even helmet to helmet. How about instead of just listening to what everyone else says you go back and watch the play and see harrisons arms extended all the way out trying to avoid helmet to helmet by pushing him away from him. WATCH THE PLAY FOR YOURSELF BEFORE YOU COMMENT. THERE IS NO HELMET TO HELMET COLLISION. When he hit Cribbs there was, but that’s not the play he got fined for.

  • Mike

    Chris,

    Read this and the comments section. I would love to read your response. Go Steelers.

    http://phinphanatic.com/2010/10/20/harrison-the-clown/

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      Since we share a network, he emailed me to tell me he’s writing about James Harrison. I expected a fair and even-handed article. I was disappointed that instead he decided to take silly cheap shots at JH to try and rile up Steeler Nation and draw attention to his site.

      Sadly, reading his comment section it seems his plan worked.

      I’m not going to waste time on a formal rebuttal because there’s really no point. He calls Harrison “a clown” and goes on about how illegal his hits were… Then two paragraphs later he writes about how the rules are unclear and you can’t take vicious hitting out of football. It seems pretty obvious he didn’t see the plays Harrison was fined for so he doesn’t really know what he’s talking about.

      And he just threw the cheap shots at JH in there to fire people up.

  • keith

    There should be a line drawn on a wall ,like DISNEY WORLD .If you are not this high or this big you can not play on offense . If a team chooses to put those wimpy little backs out there it is not the defenses fault ,when there was no helmet to helmet contact.

  • Steven McCrae

    I think that the NFL , in its pursuit of the fan loving high scoring game is molding the game into an injury ridden pass first sport. The problem rests with the rules promoting the pass in an attempt to increase scoring to gain fans. Aggression has to motivate a defender in this contact sport. The NFL has to set appropriate rules and live by them. Never fine a player without a flag unless you also fine the referee. If you send a 190lb man across the middle for a pass in the first 15 yards from scrimmage then you are placing him at risk. The answer is not to fine guys for hitting “with excessive aggression.” The NFL should allow more hitting down field if it truly wants to save players from injury. Make it a little harder to pass and the strategies will change. Extend the 5 yard chuck zone to 15 or 20 yards or when the ball is in flight and you will solve the problem as best as it can be solved in this violent sport. If the faster/smaller guys find it harder to get open down field, then the problem will correct itself naturally. Ah, but the NFL does not want that! They want their high scores without the injuries that naturally come with it. They want the semi-contact sport of flag football with just a touch of violence. Good luck policing that one. What comes next, boxing without hits to the head?

    • http://nicepickcowher.com chris

      It’s funny, Steven, I was rewatching my DVD set of the Steelers first four Super Bowls a couple weeks back. I was struck how in the mid-70s, receivers had to FIGHT to get open because corners and backers were allowed to bump them way down the field.

      When all this nonsense over the Massaquoi hit surfaced, my first thought was “Maybe there wouldn’t be as many over-the-middle hits if receivers weren’t allowed to run free all over the field.” So thank you for bringing that up. I wholeheartedly agree.

      • Steven McCrae

        Ah, the mere mentioning of the 70′s brings a black and gold tear to my eye.

  • Dan

    If the NFL was really serious about stopping these hits, they would put padding on the outside of the helmets to cushion the blow. But they probably won’t because then they couldn’t sell helmet merchandise because “it wouldn’t look as cool as a hard helmet”. When you make them put their money where their mouth is, they won’t follow through and protect the players heads.