In a bold and unprecedented move by the NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has been suspended for one game. The suspension stems from this helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, as well as James Harrison's long history of illegal hits preceding that one. He's been fined six times over the last two years by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for hits ruled illegal or unnecessary, for a total of $125,000.
Here's a snippet from the league's official statement on the matter:
Harrison was penalized for roughing the passer in last Thursday night's Steelers-Browns game for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit against a defenseless quarterback, Cleveland's Colt McCoy. In addition to four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010, Harrison also was fined twice for unnecessary roughness during that period. Harrison totaled six fines in that two-year period.
The 2011 League Policies for Players manual states: "Players who were fined for violations in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy."
It's the first time the NFL has issued a suspension for such behavior. Until now, fines had been the only punishment dished out, but even the biggest of fines won't have the same impact as a suspension. Those are the attention-grabbers.
It's not a surprise that Harrison, with these suspensions, becomes the official poster boy for what can happen if a player fails to comply with these new NFL rule changes. Not only is Harrison a repeat offender, but he's also been completely unapologetic and brash in his belief that he's doing nothing wrong, and has been less than kind in comments towards Roger Goodell. One senses that the league would love for him to at least acknowledge that he has to change some things about how he plays. Maybe the suspension will be the thing that finally breaks him.
Harrison is expected to appeal the decision, and there's a chance it could be overturned before the Steelers' Monday game against the 49ers. We await his reaction.
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