FanDuel - WFBC

December 13, 2011

James Harrison Suspended for McCoy Hit: The NFL has suspended Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy during last week's game, a punishment that will cost him one game's pay of $75,000. The league said Harrison has made five illegal hits against quarterbacks the past three seasons. The NFL's also investigating how the Browns handled the sidelines concussion test for McCoy, who is suffering from a concussion and doubtful for the next game.

posted by rcade to football at 12:06 PM - 38 comments

Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon-Journal claims that the Browns still didn't know McCoy had suffered a likely concussion at 2:30 a.m. after the game, despite telling TV reporters to turn the lights down when McCoy was trotted out for post-game interviews:

McCoy never should have been brought to the interview podium, especially since a Browns spokesman requested that lights on the television cameras be turned off and advised that the session would be brief. The remark about the lights led one television newsman to tweet that McCoy had a concussion, which was later denied by the team.

posted by rcade at 12:12 PM on December 13

Who is running that medical staff in Cleveland? They have also been sued a couple of times because their injured players get staph infections.

And, even with a one game suspension, Harrison won't change the way he does things, and his coaches won't encourage him to.

posted by bperk at 12:15 PM on December 13

Harrison should be suspended for the remainder of the season. Given his penchant for violent cheap shots; and his utter disregard for fellow players, he has no place in the NFL. Hard hits are part of the game; but shots like he dealt to McCoy should be prosecuted.

posted by Tinman at 12:43 PM on December 13

1 game ... what a joke.

NFL is the worst league at enforcing major violations of any professional sport. Guess it will take Harrison ending the career of a marquee player to remove the league office's head from it's ass.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:57 PM on December 13

NFL is the worst league at enforcing major violations on the field of play of any professional sport.

Fixed that for you...

But they have no problem enforcing punishment for things that have nothing to do with the NFL.

posted by grum@work at 01:13 PM on December 13

And, even with a one game suspension, Harrison won't change the way he does things, and his coaches won't encourage him to.

Given his penchant for violent cheap shots; and his utter disregard for fellow players, he has no place in the NFL

I would have to disagree. If you look at least season, Harrison was fines and suspended several times. Here we are in week 14, and this is the first time that anything has happened and this one was questionable at best. If you are someone who has watched the Steelers all year, it is obvious that he has changed his game alot since last year. If he were not a "repeat offender", I think he walks away from this with little or no fine at all. Both players were running full speed at each other. Both took one more step after the ball was thrown.

posted by Debo270 at 01:18 PM on December 13

"NFL is the worst league at enforcing major violations of any professional sport."

Well what I have learned in another thread is that this may be true but only because the NFL has taken steps to create some rules to enforce, as opposed to say the NHL where they are reluctant to create rules therefore eliminating the need for enforcement (at least by officials). This model might work for the NFL also, just allow the players to take the enforcement into their own hands. Harrison would just be an team enforcer, who can also play very well.

This is again the same dilemma. Should willing players of a very rough and potentially dangerous game be protected for their own good?

While it may be difficult to answer, one thing the NFL proves is that while the refs, are not perfect and may miss some clear violations during a game, they are at least willing to make every effort to stop those violations through severe punitive action, both during a game with penalties to teams and even after the fact through fines and suspensions. It would be a tough argument to say this isn't effective at, if not eliminating the infractions, reducing them substantially.

Before anybody jumps on me I am not suggesting anything and would be fine if the NFL allowed the hits in question, I like em as a spectator. I am merely engaging in the discussion as it relates to football and hockey. Two sports where the long term price of certain accepted practices are now being discovered. Should these games be changed to reflect this?

As society progresses there is a long history of trying to make combative sports a little safer. Bare knuckle boxing is no longer tolerated, although some may argue it is actually safer for the participants than boxing with gloves. Also it has been said that football would be safer without helmets or face masks. Would fans ever tolerate or find football as exciting with less full speed, head first collisions. Would hockey be as much fun without, some bare knuckle fighting thrown in?

Would professional flag football ever draw a crowd?

posted by Atheist at 01:52 PM on December 13

Would professional flag football ever draw a crowd?

Probably not.

The issue here is the overwhelming majority of players in each professional league abide by the rules. For the 2% that do not the league must take action to protect the integrity of the game. Harrison has aready proclaimed that he doesn't care about the rules and that he will continue to play the way he wants - it's apparent the NFL doesn't have an issue with this attitude.

posted by cixelsyd at 02:13 PM on December 13

Would professional flag football ever draw a crowd?

No, but enforcing rules against cheap shots isn't the same as eliminating contact all together. Even with the current rules we have, there is plenty of contact, and hard contact at that.

If I may draw an unpleasant analogy, there are people who watch auto racing at least in part because of the risk of crashing. You can make all the rules you want and all the safety improvements you want and there will still be crashes. Its an unavoidable part of the sport. However, you can do what you can to make sure drivers walk away from crashes.

Similarly, there will be hits - and hard ones at that - in football. You can do what you can, however, to minimize the long term health problems that football players inevitably face.

posted by Joey Michaels at 02:21 PM on December 13

@Debo -

Are you f'ing kidding me?!?!?! Harrison not only took the extra step, he had the time to consider: do I make this hit or not? He did, and there's consequences for his actions.

posted by Tinman at 02:35 PM on December 13

"If I may draw an unpleasant analogy, there are people who watch auto racing at least in part because of the risk of crashing. You can make all the rules you want and all the safety improvements you want and there will still be crashes. Its an unavoidable part of the sport. However, you can do what you can to make sure drivers walk away from crashes. "

Well I did make a similar argument that Hockey fans watch hockey at least in part for the fights which is why the league is reluctant to enforce any rules against them. I suggested they at least create some rules to help make sure the participants are protected as much as possible. Needless to say this did not get a great reception from Hockey fans on this forum citing the unavoidable part of the sport.

I really don't see anybody trying to eliminate those unavoidable parts of the sports in question. Nor would I suggest that they do. Collisions are unavoidable in both football and hockey, common sense says that some modification of the rules can help prevent some injuries. Rules though, in order to be effective must be followed and human nature will always mean some players will bend or stretch or break the rules for some advantage. Only serious penalties, and a league with determination to enforce their rules can effectively help players stay as safe as possible since absolute safety isn't realistic.

posted by Atheist at 02:38 PM on December 13

For a little balance on the cleveland.com story in the FPP, here is an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of Harrison's suspension:

"[Harrison] hit him, he hit him illegally, he has to suffer the consequences. ... We're disappointed. We're disappointed for James because we know how hard he's worked to play within the rules. [but] he has to be accountable for that so we accept the judgment rendered by the league office. ... He can't participate in any football activities with us this week. He'll be allowed in the building next Tuesday."
This was also the first time since 1986 that the NFL has suspended a "player for a tackle since Packers defensive end Charles Martin was given a two-game suspension for body-slamming Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon to the ground..."

posted by scully at 02:42 PM on December 13

Are you f'ing kidding me?!?!?! Harrison not only took the extra step, he had the time to consider: do I make this hit or not? He did, and there's consequences for his actions.

we discussed this to death, but no he did not. To quote Peter King:

"McCoy, by my count, took five strides with the ball tucked under his arm, and when he and Harrison were about one stride apart, McCoy quickly pulled out the ball and tossed it to a receiver for a completion. I agree with what Harrison said postgame -- when he was coiling to hit McCoy, the quarterback appeared to be a runner."

watch this and pause it at 12 seconds. You can see Harrison already in his launch when the ball is leaving Colt's hands (If I could post a picture, I would).

Now King thinks the penalty should have been called because of the H2H, which I had argued against as I thought he was a "runner" and thus was legal to hit H2H, but my thoughts were wrong as those rules apparently don't apply to a QB, even when he's a runner. But I will say, to add to Harrison's case, that Colt ducks his head which contributes to the H2H hit.

Regarding the suspension..ridiculous. You suspended Suh and Haynesworth for a "non-football" play (stomping on a guy). Those plays didn't have anything to do with football. This was a "football" play. Fine the hell out of him, but suspension? Ridiculous.

posted by bdaddy at 02:59 PM on December 13

If you really concentrate, really, really hard, you can almost see where the lines might be drawn regarding this argument. I'm really goddamn astute, so I happened to notice that those who support a certain football team from Pittsburgh fall on one side of the argument, and those who do not support them fall on the other.

Although it seems like Mike Tomlin, who I believe also cheers for the Steelers, has acknowledged that the hit was illegal. His opinion may carry some weight.

posted by tahoemoj at 03:18 PM on December 13

The McCoy was a runner excuse doesn't fly with me because Harrison doesn't treat him like a runner. Linebackers tackle runners. They don't try to knock their heads off like they're receivers crossing over the middle. You can tell by his arms that Harrison wasn't trying to tackle him.

I'm glad Harrison was suspended. Maybe this will finally convince him to start playing the game the way almost every other defender is playing it. You can play the game ferociously without headhunting.

posted by rcade at 03:35 PM on December 13

The more I watch that particular play in real time, it seems a suspension was not warranted except for the fact that there hasn't been a player in the NFL fined as much and warned as much for H2H hits as Harrison has been. Maybe the league just feels it is time to get a little tougher with Harrison as the fines have not deterred him. All of that said, McCoy has the ball tucked and is running, actually he is very close to the line of scrimmage and it almost appeared as it was too late to try a forward pass. To me it seemed like a clean hit, except for the fact he is a QB. I don't really see how Harrison can be expected to make that split second decision as to whether the ball gets out or not. Maybe the QB should be required to wear a red helmet so defenders can distinguish an off limits helmet from that of a running back at a seconds glance.

I sort of feel with QBs in the league like Tebow, Newton and Vick who are very dangerous as runners, the league should adopt a rule that only gives extra protection to QBs when they are in the pocket or at the very least behind the line of scrimmage. It doesn't seem fair to defenders for big bruising guys like Tebow or Newton to be able to be runners, but yet get protection from the defense because he is a QB. I think they should have to waive that protection if they are running. Especially when these guys are bigger than a lot of running backs, and in some cases are running options or designed running plays. If they want to be treated with kid gloves, maybe they need to stay in the pocket and pass, or hand the ball off.

posted by Atheist at 03:45 PM on December 13

... actually he is very close to the line of scrimmage ...

He's more than a yard from the line of scrimmage when he throws the ball.

I don't really see how Harrison can be expected to make that split second decision as to whether the ball gets out or not.

The NFL expects defenders to make split-second decisions like that all the time, and most of them manage it just fine. Look at how tightly hits on a quarterback after the pass are now policed.

posted by rcade at 04:14 PM on December 13

I happened to notice that those who support a certain football team from Pittsburgh fall on one side of the argument

yea, very ASTUTE of you. Except Peter King, Mike Wilbon, and thousands of others (talking heads and fans alike) who AREN'T Steeler fans argue against it. Listen to some talk radio and you'll find a lot of people who don't think a suspension was warranted.

Linebackers tackle runners. They don't try to knock their heads off like they're receivers crossing over the middle.

Did you watch the game? Because I can't point you to a hit, in that EXACT SAME GAME, where a LB on the Browns leaves his feet, leads with his helmet, and delivers a de-cleating helmet to helmet hit (no wrapup) to a RB (Mendenhall). No flag, no suspension, no fine. Just go review that go-line stand by the Browns in that game and you'll see the one I'm talking about (even hear the announcer say that it's not a penalty because there's no H2H penalty against RBs).

But anyway, I've already admited the "McCoy was a runner" excuse doesn't fly, not because of that (weak) argument, but because it doesn't matter if he WAS a runner..the NFL considers hits to QBs heads illegal, whether the QB is running or not (which opens up a whole lot of scenarios with Tebow, I'd guess).

posted by bdaddy at 04:17 PM on December 13

He's more than a yard from the line of scrimmage when he throws the ball.

Yea, I'm sure Harrison sees that blue line on the field too. When I was watching it real time (and even after without benefit of the blue line), I felt he was passed the line. Not sure how you expect him to know that on the field, realtime. 1 yard away from LOS with ball tucked under your arm is pretty hard to gauge he wasn't attempting to advance the ball on foot down the field.

Look at how tightly hits on a quarterback after the pass are now policed.

and look how often flags are thrown for just this because the players CAN'T make those decisions. Other players "aren't managing" as you put it. There's controversial late hit calls on QBs every week in every game (watch any NE game)

posted by bdaddy at 04:20 PM on December 13

I sort of feel with QBs in the league like ...
want to be treated with kid gloves

There's no analogy here with the athletic QB getting favorable treatment argument. This isn't an instance where a defender tackles a QB as he's throwing the ball away - the defender made no effort to do anything but deliver an intentional HTH blow. You can't choose to deliberately hit any player HTH no matter what position.

Just go review that go-line stand by the Browns

Completely different scenario and you cannot equate Harrison's intentional HTH with a goal line stand or even a short yardage situation.

posted by cixelsyd at 04:23 PM on December 13

Why didn't Harrison just go for the tackle? Why did he feel the need to light McCoy up like that. I know it's a split second decision but this is the third time he's done this to someone on the Browns, not tackling, but completely laying out.

posted by insomnyuk at 04:27 PM on December 13

Yea, I'm sure Harrison sees that blue line on the field too. ... Not sure how you expect him to know that on the field, realtime.

I don't think McCoy being near the line of scrimmage or not factored into Harrison's actions. I just responded to the assertion that McCoy was close to going past it, which is false.

and look how often flags are thrown for just this because the players CAN'T make those decisions. Other players "aren't managing" as you put it.

I disagree with this characterization. Most defenders have adjusted to the rules. When they're closing on a quarterback and he throws the pass, they pull up and avoid the crushing hit more quickly than they used to.

posted by rcade at 04:31 PM on December 13

I am not really defending Harrison, he has been warned and fined, he clearly went helmet to helmet on a QB which is against the rules whether he is running or not. When I look at the real time film, McCoy is running with the ball tucked away and a split second before the hit, he almost miraculously gets that ball lobbed to the receiver as the hit arrives.

I just feel that if the defenders are forced to treat an a QB different than another runner, even though the Tebows and Newtons of the league are as big and fast as running backs, and a lot of the time are running plays designed for them to run as running backs, maybe the QBs should have some restrictions on that. If you are going to restrict the method of tackling on QBs, shouldn't they be restricted on running in a certain fashion. We allow a QB to run on a broken play and slide if he wants protection. I have seen Tebow and Newton run head down for every inch like a RB. Personally if they want to do that, why should they receive extra protection? Most of the time H2H collisions on RBs happen because the RB is leaning to lower his center of gravity and the defender is trying to go low as how else do you tackle a Brandon Jacobs with body lean and full drive hitting a hole. You cannot lower your shoulders without lowering your head also, unless you want to break your neck.

posted by Atheist at 05:05 PM on December 13

If you really concentrate, really, really hard, you can almost see where the lines might be drawn regarding this argument. I'm really goddamn astute, so I happened to notice that those who support a certain football team from Pittsburgh fall on one side of the argument, and those who do not support them fall on the other.

This Steeler fan begs to differ with you tahoemoj. If you watch the the clip that shows it from behind Harrison as he heads towards McCoy it is blatantly obvious that he lowers his head right before he makes contact. My first thought were "wrong, wrong, wrong,wrong, wrong". I am suprised he only got a one game suspension. I think he should be benched for the rest of the season.

I wonder if he will be back next year. The Rooneys usually don't keep players who draw unfavorable attention to the Steelers. This season was his second chance I would think. We'll see.

posted by steelergirl at 07:31 PM on December 13

Appreciated, steelergirl. A little bit of objectivity goes a long way. I just don't understand why it is so hard for some to admit that certain players, Harrison being one, play on the edge. It's part of what makes him effective, but it also leads to incidents like this one. The same can be said about Suh.

Harrison is a hell of a player. Many of us who think he's way out of line and deserves even more than what he got would still love to see him suit up in our team's colors next season. You're not betraying your fanhood by admitting that a vicious helmet to helmet hit took place. Really, they won't take away your little yellow towel.

posted by tahoemoj at 09:00 PM on December 13

Listen to some talk radio and you'll find a lot of people who don't think a suspension was warranted.

Listen to enough talk radio and you'll hear lots of things. Talking heads are paid to get people to listen; often it is by stirring up controversy and saying silly things designed to be inflammatory. Listen to enough and you just might hear just about anything.

posted by tahoemoj at 09:03 PM on December 13

The Rooneys usually don't keep players who draw unfavorable attention to the Steelers

Ahem ... Rapistberger?

Oh - I see the "usually" clause was invoked.

Appreciate your unbiased take on the current situation. The guy is one hell of a football player, he just makes some terrible decisions.

posted by cixelsyd at 12:06 AM on December 14

When I was watching it real time (and even after without benefit of the blue line), I felt he was passed the line. Not sure how you expect him to know that on the field, realtime.

I also often feel a QB has passed the line only to be proven wrong on replay. These guys, QBs and LBs alike, are paid ridiculous amounts of money to know things like where the line of scrimmage is without the advantage of a blue line painted across the field.

You rarely see a QB draw a penalty by actually running past the line of scrimmage and still passing the ball. But often see one jump just before and throw as he crosses.

These guys aren't held to our standards and shouldn't be. I have to think Harrison knew the ball was going to be gone when the hits occurred, yet did nothing to stop or slow momentum.

posted by Ricardo at 09:36 AM on December 14

Ahem ... Rapistberger? Oh - I see the "usually" clause was invoked.

Dude, I am no fan of the Steelers, but even I have to admit that what steelergirl stated is true. Not only do the Rooneys take a dim view, but the fan base is fine with cutting non-character guys. There were Steeler fans on this board who were ok with cutting Big Ben at the time of his last incident. Ease up.

posted by yerfatma at 09:54 AM on December 14

Are you f'ing kidding me?!?!?! Harrison not only took the extra step, he had the time to consider: do I make this hit or not?

He also could have not pulled up at all and killed Mccoy.

I'm really goddamn astute, so I happened to notice that those who support a certain football team from Pittsburgh fall on one side of the argument

yes I am a Steelers fan, but dont lump me in with all the yinzers. I have had many an arguement with people at many a bar when they are saying some obvious call was not a penalty. I call them like I see them. It was questionable for sure, but not suspension worthy

posted by Debo270 at 11:29 AM on December 14

The league said his suspension is because of all five illegal hits, not just the last one.

I'm surprised you think he pulled up.

posted by rcade at 11:56 AM on December 14

I'm surprised you think he pulled up.

I really do and I think part of why he did is he realized it was a QB. I think if thios was the middle of last year and the same thing happened, he would have Left his feel, led more with his helmet and knocked Mccoy out cold.

posted by Debo270 at 12:04 PM on December 14

ESPN was just showing a zillion super slo-mo replays. There is no suggestion I could find in his body language that he slowed up.

posted by yerfatma at 01:06 PM on December 14

Browns exec Mike Holmgren said the team's doctors never tested McCoy for a concussion on the sideline because none of them saw the play where he was hit and he only talked to them about his hand. The docs were attending to other personnel. More details.

Crazy.

posted by rcade at 03:03 PM on December 14

That is insane, rcade. This is the quarterback we're talking about. I'm okay with medical personnel not watching the game -- Holmgren said they were taking care of other players at the time -- but there were dozens of other Browns personnel watching that exact hit. The fact that none of them walked over to the doctors and said, "Hey, Colt just took a fucker of a head shot, you might want to check him out," is horrifying.

posted by Etrigan at 03:29 PM on December 14

This is the quarterback we're talking about

This is Cleveland we're talking about.

posted by cixelsyd at 04:30 PM on December 14

Earlier, I said Brad McCoy wasn't in a position to be a whistleblower because he wasn't on the sideline.

Turns out he was paying more attention to Colt's well-being than anybody actually on the sideline.

posted by rcade at 05:11 PM on December 14

cixelsyd I understand you comment about Roethlisberger. Maybe there were contractual issues that kept the Rooneys from cutting Ben. Or maybe they decided, like the police did with criminal charges, there wasn't enough evidence to cut one of their best players.

(not a Ben defender, I respect the quarterback but not necessarily the man. I definitely think he has issues, but he went along with what the NFL and the Rooneys thought he should do to rehabilitate himself. My late niece worked in a restaurant in Milledgeville, Ga. and said his rep, around town/her dealings with him, was one of a real asshole.)

As far as Harrison goes, repeated fines and reprimands have done nothing to curtail how he plays at times. Yes, he was a fairly good boy this season til this last hit, but he has shown he does not want to change. He can play hard and well without these brain busting hits. He chooses not to. If he is back next season I will be mildly suprised.

posted by steelergirl at 09:35 PM on December 14

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