On Wednesday, former NFL assistant coach (and UFL head coach) Ted Cottrell conducted the hearing on Steelers linebacker James Harrison’s appeal of his one-game suspension for the latest violation of the league’s rules regarding hits on defenseless players. Since the recent ruling on Ndamukong Suh’s appeal came a day after the hearing held by Hall of Famer and former head coach Art Shell, will the Harrison decision come today?
“Maybe today,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT by email. “Maybe not. We’re on Ted Cottrell’s timetable.”
The Steelers begin practicing in earnest today for Monday night’s game against the 49ers. Harrison remains banished from the team until the suspension is overturned — or until it ends.
Meanwhile, the fact that Cottrell played linebacker in the NFL and coached defense in various cities could make him more sympathetic to Harrison’s case than Shell, a former offensive lineman, was to the guy who was suspended two games for stomping on (wait for it) an offensive lineman. The current linebacker surely argued to the former linebacker that the movement of Browns quarterback Colt McCoy toward the line of scrimmage, with ball tucked in his arm, led Harrison to believe McCoy was a runner.
Though that doesn’t change the fact that Harrison’s hit was illegal and merits punishment, given that a quarterback who throws on the run still cannot be struck in the head or facem it could cause Cottrell to conclude that the NFL’s system of progressive discipline requires something less severe than a suspension at this time. For example, Cottrell could decide to simply fine Harrison a game check ($73,500), triggering the financial penalty of a suspension without hurting Harrison’s team.
Last year, the league imposed gross fines on Harrison of $125,000. Via the appeal process, however, the fines were reduced to $57,500.
Thus, despite complaints from guys like Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark, the appeal process hardly is futile. So don’t be shocked if Cottrell disagrees with the league office that the time has come to make Harrison miss a game.