James Harrison: I hit opponents in the knees now, even though it’s no safer
James Harrison has had an extremely quiet season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, by James Harrison’s standards. His sack numbers are down, but he has also kept his name free of talk about concussions and illegal hits. The Pro Bowl linebacker says that is because he has been aiming a lot lower.
“I’ve really lowered my target area to where it’s down around the knees,” Harrison told Mike and Mike on Friday morning, via Pro Football Talk. “Situations come along where you could tackle the guy high. I don’t do that anymore. I tackle the guy low.”
Of course, Harrison didn’t have an epiphany and wake up one morning seeing things Roger Goodell’s way. Instead, it sounds like he had an agenda in explaining his new style of tackling. He then went into a discussion about how he strained Denver Broncos receiver Eric Decker’s MCL in the playoffs last year.
“I could have tackled him high, but if I had hit him high, I probably would have gotten a helmet-to-helmet or something and gotten fined,” Harrison said. “So I hit him low and strained his MCL. … They’re saying it’s a life-threatening injury to hit a guy in the head and he gets a concussion and so on and so forth, but I think a life-threatening injury is to go low on a guy and blow out his ACL or whatever, and he’s not able to come back the way he was before. Now he can’t make a living, he can’t feed his family, he can’t do what he does. That’s life-threatening to me.”
You can certainly make the argument that targeting an opponent’s knees is just as dangerous for their career, and I understand where Harrison is coming from. However, the NFL is trying to avoid lawsuits from players who suffer from long-term brain damage. A player’s quality of life after football is less likely to be affected by a leg injury than a head injury.