After racking up fines and a suspension for repeated hits to opponents’ heads, Steelers linebacker James Harrison did exactly what the league office has been urging him to do on Sunday: He lowered his target when making a hit.
The result was a hard shot to Broncos receiver Eric Decker’s knee, resulting in an MCL sprain that will likely keep him out of Saturday’s playoff game at New England. And Broncos V.P. of Football Operations John Elway links the injury to Decker’s knee with the deductions from Harrison’s paychecks.
“The target is now lower,” Elway said on 102.3 FM in Denver on Monday, via USA Today. “Harrison yesterday, because of the fact that he’s been fined so often, really had no other option. . . . I don’t think he intended to hurt Eric. But obviously because of the situations he’s been in, he had to go low and stay away from the head. And it ended up costing an MCL sprain for Eric.”
Elway’s comments point to one of the problems a lot of players have had with the NFL’s emphasis on decreasing helmet-to-helmet hits: If you’re not hitting your opponent high, you have to hit him low. And low hits often put players out of commission a long longer than high hits. Fortunately for Decker, what looked like an ugly knee injury turned out to be a relatively minor one.