Steelers linebacker James Harrison drew praise from the league office this week for not committing any illegal hits in Sunday’s game against the Dolphins. But Harrison says he had to sacrifice his performance to play the game the NFL wants him to play.
“That was my least productive game this year,” Harrison told Josina Anderson on Inside the NFL. “We can still play the game, but it’s not the same.”
Inside the NFL showed multiple plays from the Steelers-Dolphins game when Harrison appeared to slow down and avoid contact, rather than accelerate and explode into a Dolphins player. Harrison said he was thinking about a suspension on those plays.
“If I shot in there I would have probably hit helmet to helmet, and I’ve already got one offense,” Harrison said. “So I could probably be looking at a possible suspension.”
But while Harrison seems to think that’s a bad thing, the folks in the league office would say that Harrison is proving their point, and the increased emphasis on illegal hits has resulted in a repeat offender changing his playing style.
Harrison, who on Wednesday was credited with an interception that the official statistician had failed to record on Sunday, says he isn’t worried about the long-term health implications of having so many head-first collisions on the field.
“To be honest with you, I’m not too concerned about it,” Harrison said. “If that happens it’s gonna suck, but hopefully I’ll have made enough money and put in enough time that my kids don’t have to worry about it. And if I’ve got to go through a little bit of hell so they don’t have to, I’m fine with that.”
That so many NFL players are unconcerned about their health after the game is exactly why the league says it has to protect players from each other, and from themselves.