Sunday, December 11, 2011

Harrison deserves hefty fine

By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
December 11, 2011

It's easy to predict the Steelers' week as they prepare to play a big game against the playoff-bound San Francisco 49ers Dec. 19 at Candlestick Park.

The NFL will review linebacker James Harrison's hit Thursday night on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, which resulted in a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Harrison for helmet-to-helmet contact. The league will fine Harrison heavily, perhaps even suspend him considering his history of similar hits. The Steelers will scream NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is out to get them and is especially targeting Harrison. Harrison will smolder and say he was wronged, although he will stop short of calling Goodell a "crook," a "devil" and a gay slur, as he did in a magazine article in the summer. The team will move on and take out all of the anger on the 49ers.

Sound about right?

There is no way Harrison avoids a stiff fine. There is no way he should. His hit on McCoy in the Steelers' 14-3 win is exactly the hit the NFL wants to take out of the game. It was much worse than safety Ryan Clark's hit on Baltimore Ravens tight end Ed Dickson Nov. 6. That hit resulted in a $40,000 fine for Clark and prompted outrage from everyone in the Steelers organization from coach Mike Tomlin, who called the fine "excessive," to the players, who went on another rant about Goodell and his unlimited disciplinary power even though their union signed off on it in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

A $50,000 fine for Harrison, perhaps?

Maybe $75,000?

It seems unlikely that Harrison will be suspended. Nor should he be. This was his first personal foul this season. He has done a much better job playing by the rules, yet has managed to keep his image as the NFL's most ferocious player.

But that's just one man's view. A lot of national media are calling for the NFL to come down hard on Harrison. They point to the $100,000 he was fined last season for four different hits. They say he still hasn't learned the difference between a legal hit and one that can knock a player into next week.

It's not hard to imagine the terror McCoy felt when he saw Harrison coming. He had just scrambled to his left and dumped a short pass to running back Montario Hardesty midway through the fourth quarter. McCoy had to know he was going to take a brutal hit because he had just released the ball. Harrison certainly didn't get to him late. But McCoy was right to have the reasonable expectation that he wouldn't take a vicious shot in the facemask from the crown of Harrison's helmet.

It's amazing that McCoy got up, let alone made it to the Cleveland sideline. It's beyond comprehension that Browns coach Pat Shurmur and the team's medical staff allowed him to return to the game after three plays. At least it was incomprehensible to McCoy's father, Brad, a longtime high school coach, who ripped the decision to put his son back in. The team acknowledged Friday that Colt McCoy had a concussion but said he didn't show symptoms until after the game.

"He was basically out [cold] after the hit," Brad McCoy told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

Colt McCoy said after the game that he didn't remember the hit.

NFL officials need to look into that when they review the Harrison hit.

But, really, the Browns aren't on trial here, are they? Nor is Cleveland defensive tackle Phil Taylor, who was penalized in the first quarter for delivering a blow to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's head and surely will be fined. Nor is Steelers linebacker James Farrior, who will be fined for the second time this season for hitting McCoy out of bounds in the third quarter.

No, this is about Harrison.

Everyone will be watching to see how Goodell and his people handle the Harrison hit.

"I hate him and will never respect him," Harrison said of Goodell in a Men's Journal article in July in which he also used the derogatory terms to describe him.

Harrison later apologized, calling his comments "inappropriate at least and way out of line."

The league office took no action against Harrison, presumably because the article came out during the NFL lockout.

Harrison will not -- should not -- escape this time.

Ron Cook: Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan. More articles by this author

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