The way some sportswriters see it you'd think Colt McCoy should be apologizing to James Harrison for the high & mighty hit the Steelers' linebacker laid on the Browns' QB in last Thursday's intra-division contest (Pitt 14-3):
How Colt might sound on the phone with James: Hey, I'm real sorry for putting you in that difficult spot, James. Tempting you to spear me with your helmet. We all know you're stubborn, think you're above the rules and your coaches don't seem to care much. Sorry, man. I tell ya' what, next time you're in Cleveland...Who is this (?)...or Dallas we'll do up the town. But call me first. I'm having trouble remembering sssstuff. Umm....Who is this again?'
Harrison was suspended for one game by the League on Tuesday for his violative helmet-to-helmet hit on McCoy. The four-time Pro Bowl linebacker has been flagged five times for illegal hits on quarterbacks in the past three seasons.
To many fans & writers the Harrison suspension is just one more bad example of how the League is hamstringing defensive players in a misguided effort to legislate danger out of an inherently dangerous sport in the name of safety. I'm not one of them.
Here are some of the apologists I read on Tuesday:
A writer at the AP:
"James Harrison has carved out a niche as one of the most feared defenders...by straddling the line between clean and dirty play" ("Steelers Harrison Suspended" / AP / 12-13). "(S)traddling the line?" That's very generous, AP. I think Mr. Harrison proudly walked across that line into "dirty" last season.
SI.com NFL writer Peter King:
"They (Tomlin & LeBeau) have to stress with this great football player that if he doesn't begin aiming lower on his hits (He may seriously & permanently harm a QB? Nah.)...his career is going to be constantly interrupted by fines and suspensions. He'll be miserable" ("Steelers Must Convince" / 12-13). Easy to see where this writer's priorities are. I don't wish misery on anyone (or that awful movie) but the sadness of Mr. Harrison is pretty low on my list of concerns, PK.
Alex Marvez at Foxsports.com:
After describing the illegal hit James laid on McCoy: "In a high-speed game like football, especially at the professional level, accidents will happen ("Harrison One Piece" / 12-13).
Accidents? Mr. Marvez should watch the tape again. You don't need to be an NFL replay-official to easily spot how Harrison slightly lowers his helmet a split second before he initiates contact with the QB. That's no accident. Aiming your equipment makes it a tool and a very dangerous one at that. It may be a big reason for the Leagues actions.
The kicker is when Alex chastises Colt for his continued play in the game: "McCoy is culpable too because he didn't tell trainers that something was potentially amiss" (FOX / Marvez). While it's true that patients need to assist in their care, given McCoy's compromised state "culpable" is a little rough on the guy.
And then there's James Harrison:
His text on hearing of the suspension: "Lol!!!" (AP). After thanking his fans, "I'm just going to move on...and get ready for the next game (AP)." Something tells me this guy's not paying attention.
Maybe the best way to deter recidivists like James Harrison, Richard Seymour and Ndamukong Suh (Polamalu could review the rules, too) is through peer pressure, specifically, payback. Not through fights (though you gotta' like the team-spirit in hockey & baseball) but by physical, rule-abiding acts that tell repeat-offenders there'll be a price to pay for illegal hits on teammates beyond fines & suspensions.
Roger Goodell, the Rules Committee and game officials are doing their part and still get criticism from all quarters. Now it's time for NFL players to grab a-hold of em and step-up. Combatants can't be held to assessing a teammate's on-field medical condition but they do know when one's been mistreated by an opposing player.
Question is, do they care?