Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker and former Super Bowl MVP, James Harrison has become the first player suspended for an illegal hit since the NFL’s aggressive effort to cut down on big hits on defenseless players.
Harrison, an all-pro linebacker and 2009 Defensive Player of the Year, is known for vicious hits that have led to concussions and other injuries.
In the 2010 NFL season, he knocked Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi out of a game after striking him with the crown of his helmet. In the same year, Harrison was fined more than $120,000 for illegal hits, causing him to contemplate retirement.
The 2012 season has been less eventful for him, especially since he missed time with a broken eye socket.
However, in true Steelers’ fashion, he laid another barbaric hit on a Cleveland Browns’ player.
This time it was second year quarterback, Colt McCoy who was the victim. As he scrambled in a Thursday night matchup, Harrison rammed his helmet into the facemask of McCoy, knocking him out with a concussion.
The NFL has strict rules about hitting quarterbacks in the head and McCoy was considered a “defenseless” player since he had just thrown a pass. He received a 15-yard penalty for the hit.
Harrison defended his hit by saying McCoy was scrambling, which makes him a runner and not a passer.
“From what I understand, once the quarterback leaves the pocket, he’s considered a runner,” Harrison said. He added, “All the defenseless(ness) and liberties that a quarterback has in the pocket are gone and you can tackle him just as he’s a running back. The hit wasn’t late, so I really don’t understand why it was called.”
Harrison, being a poster boy for the NFL’s battle against these types of hits, was suspended without pay Tuesday for the hit, making him the first player to receive a suspension for an illegal hit.
Other players have been reprimanded for these types of hits.
Players like Detroit Lions Ndomakung Suh and fellow Steelers’ defender Ryan Clark have also been fined between $10,000 and $20,000 respectively for illegal hits this season.
Harrison’s punishment is the most severe handed down by NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, who Harrison publicly criticized in a Men’s Journal Magazine article.
In the article, in which Harrison posed with two guns, he called Goodell a “crook and a puppet.”
Harrison is expected to appeal the one-game suspension, but until the matter is resolved, Harrison is not allowed to practice or use team facilities.