Steelers linebacker James Harrison knew it was coming. He had to.
Personal foul. Roughing the passer. Helmet-to-helmet contact. Fifteen yards. What else does he know is coming? A league fine.
We know what’s coming, too: The inevitable defense of Harrison from his coach and teammates. Browns quarterback Colt McCoy may have been the latest defenseless victim, but Harrison’s hits are indefensible.
Of course, that didn’t stop Harrison from defending himself after the game.
“From what I understand, once the quarterback leaves the pocket, he’s considered a runner,” Harrison said. “All the defenseless[ness] and liberties that a quarterback has in the pocket are gone and you can tackle him just as he’s a running back. The hit wasn’t late, so I really don’t understand why it was called.”
If Harrison doesn’t understand now, after being fined a total of $125,000 in 2010 for illegal hits, he’ll never understand. His foul was so egregious, it violated not one, not two, but three sections of the NFL rulebook.
One: “If a player uses any part of his helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/’hairline’ parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily.” Check.
Two: “Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head, neck, or face with the helmet or facemask, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him.” Check.
Three: “Lowering the head and violently or unnecessarily making forcible contact with the ‘hairline’ or forehead part of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.” Checkmate.
Harrison’s understanding of the rulebook is wrong, and if he doesn’t understand why it’s a penalty, it’s easily explained in 10 words: he lowered his head, and hit McCoy in the head.
Just look at the photo.
That’s a pretty cut-and-dry violation, if you ask me. Feel free to watch the highlight of the hit if that’s not conclusive enough evidence. Harrison was looking directly at McCoy when he threw the ball. Still ready to defend him?
“If the quarterback is ‘attempting to advance the ball as a runner,’ all protections for the passer apparently go away,” the rule says. This is where a potential gray area in the rule could save Harrison from yet another league fine.
But even if Harrison isn’t fined for his latest hit, isn’t it time to up the ante? The simple fact that one must now search for gray areas in the rules to find an excuse for Harrison’s hits is a testament to his history of them and his inability to learn from them.
No one searched for gray areas when Ndamukong Suh stomped Evan Dietrich-Smith, and that was enough to earn a two-game suspension. Even if Harrison isn’t fined, how much do you want to bet it’ll happen again?
And that alone should be enough to warrant the threat of a suspension.
Screen shot via NFL.com