For the first time since the league has placed increased emphasis on player safety arising from illegal in-game hits, a player with a history of illegal in-game hits has been suspended.
The NFL has suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison one game for his helmet-to-face hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. The league announced the decision this morning, moments after it was reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Though Schefter says Harrison is expected to miss Monday night’s game against the 49ers, we previously have reported that Harrison will have the ability to pursue an expedited appeal, and to obtain a ruling before the Steelers’ next game. The league’s announcement supports the notion that, if Harrison opts for an expedited appeal and prevails, he will play on Monday in San Francisco. Harrison will be prevented from practicing or otherwise being with the team until the suspension is overturned.
The appeal would be handled by Art Shell or Ted Cottrell. The former coaches have been jointly hired, and they are jointly paid, by the NFL and the NFLPA. NFL V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson will appoint one of them to handle the appeal.
Harrison said Monday that he believes he shouldn’t even be fined for the hit, because McCoy was running with the ball just before he threw to running back Montarrio Hardesty. The applicable rules, however, protect a quarterback from hits to the head even if he throws while on the run.
Working against Harrison was his history of fines. He has six since 2009, and the league considers a three-year window when determining discipline.
Though not an express factor in the decision, it surely didn’t help Harrison that he unleashed a torrent of insults at Commissioner Roger Goodell during an interview with Men’s Journal. “If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out,” Harrison said of Commissioner Roger Goodell, “I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.” Harrison also posed in the interview for a photo with a pair of guns, called Goodell a “crook” and a “devil” and a “puppet” and a “dictator,” and Harrison described Goodell with a gay slur.
Likewise, the lack or remorse or sensitivity to the rules reflected by Harrison’s Monday remarks surely didn’t help him.
Harrison suggested after absorbing a $75,000 fine in 2010 that he would retire from the game. The suspension could rekindle such talk, especially since he seems to genuinely believe it was a clean hit on McCoy.