Mike Tomlin: James Harrison is Not a Dirty Player

James Harrison is recognized as one of the dirtiest players in the NFL. He was suspended a game this season for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Colt McCoy. He’s committed five illegal hits in three years, and he was fined six times the last two seasons. Harrison even made an illegal hit on Josh Cribbs when the players were teammates in college. But is Harrison a dirty player? Mike Tomlin says no.

Asked during a conference call by the Cleveland media if Harrison is dirty, Tomlin said no. The Steelers coach was then asked to explain the rash of illegal hits by his star linebacker.

“They’re unfortunate plays. I think the circumstances around those plays and all of that’s been well documented. I base my judgment on his quality of play, based on his total body of work, from being around him day to day for the last five years. I can say comfortably that I don’t believe that James Harrison is a dirty player.”

Tomlin believes there are collisions in football and that not all of them will be legal.

I understand where Tomlin is coming from and I agree with him to a certain extent. Sometimes hits are unavoidable if you’re trying to make a play. But Harrison has a pattern of committing helmet-to-helmet hits. If he leads with his shoulder instead of his dome, he’ll avoid them, but he hasn’t changed his style. That’s what makes him dirty, contrary to what Mike Tomlin says.

James Harrison Thinks Browns Should Be Punished for Letting Colt McCoy Play with a Concussion

James Harrison returned to practice on Wednesday for the Steelers. With the way Pittsburgh played on the road in San Francisco Monday night, they need all the help they can get. Harrison spoke to reporters after practice and had a number of quick responses, most of which indicate he now has an “oh well” attitude when the league reprimands him. He did, however, say he thinks the Browns deserve to be punished for letting McCoy go back in after the big hit.

“My helmet hit his helmet, it is what it is,” Harrison said. “If he was hurt so bad I don’t know why they let him back in two plays later. Something should be done to them, I would think. I got a game, what should they get?

While Harrison has a point, you can’t compare his crime to their crime.  He wasn’t suspended because he injured McCoy, but because the hit was illegal.  The league didn’t have to see that McCoy suffered a concussion to suspend Harrison for yet another helmet-to-helmet hit.

That being said, Harrison isn’t the only one who believes the Browns should be punished in some way.  McCoy’s father was furious the Cleveland coaches and trainers let his son back in the game and their decision completely undermines the league’s hazy policy on concussions.  Harrison is wrong in thinking that the league should have given him a break, but he is right that the Browns should face some sort of penalty for putting McCoy’s health at risk.

James Harrison Feels He Should Have Gotten a Break Since it Was 17 Games Between Illegal Hits

It came as absolutely no surprise when the NFL suspended James Harrison for his illegal hit on Colt McCoy last week.  It was even less of a surprise when Harrison lost his appeal, considering he is a repeat — or sevenpeat — offender.  Still, that hasn’t stopped Harrison from thinking he deserves a break.  Check out this tweet he sent out on Friday:

It makes sense that the same guy who threatened to retire after he was fined for an illegal hit would believe he is being treated unfairly by the league.  The fact that Harrison thinks a suspension is unwarranted because he has been “clean” for 17 games speaks to the kind of player he is.  Plenty of players go an entire career without having one incident, let alone bragging about playing over 1,000 snaps without one.

As we expressed earlier this week, it was not a football play that got Harrison suspended.  Harrison has developed a habit of constantly leading with his helmet and using it as a weapon.  The unfortunate thing is the suspension won’t even help.  Someone else is going to get hurt because of his playing style.  It’s just a matter of when it will happen.

James Harrison Deserves Suspension for Helmet Hit on Colt McCoy

I have been one of the people critical of the rule changes in the NFL that’s favored offenses. The league is so cautious about protecting its offensive stars, referees will penalize defensive players who make hard hits whether they’re illegal or not. Steelers linebacker James Harrison was suspended a game by the NFL Monday for his hit on Colt McCoy, and it’s a decision I support.

Harrison has committed five illegal hits in three years. He was fined a total of six times during the 2009 and 2010 seasons for four illegal hits against quarterbacks and twice for unnecessary roughness. After an illegal hit on Mohamed Massaquoi last season, he said he was contemplating retirement. Now Harrison says he won’t change the way he plays.

He should.

Harrison is similar to Brandon Meriweather in that their style of play leads to illegal hits. Meriweather is known for launching his body at opposing players. Harrison frequently leads with his helmet, and he often goes for opposing players’ heads. There’s a way to make hard tackles without hitting your opponent in the helmet. If Harrison can’t figure out how to accomplish this, then maybe he does need a new profession.

Was Colt McCoy a Ball Carrier On James Harrison’s Illegal Hit? (Animated)

Before you get all flustered and accuse me of saying James Harrison is a clean player, just hear me out.  No, I would never support a player who does stuff like this and this on a regular basis and has a reputation for playing like an absolute maniac.  However, the penalty — and potential fine or suspension — that was called on Harrison during Thursday night’s game between the Steelers and Browns brings up an interesting point.  At what point does the quarterback become a ball carrier?  You can see a video of the play at NFL.com here, but here is an animation of the actual shot that drew a flag, courtesy of @bubbaprog:

Colt McCoy got off a pass at the last second, but Harrison was already charging after him once he tucked the ball in and started running with it.  Does the fact that McCoy decided to change his mind and throw it at the last second mean he at no point became a ball carrier?  As we know, a running back or a receiver who has already established himself can be hit using helmet-to-helmet contact.  Harrison will likely draw a six-figure fine and possibly a suspension because of his reputation, but this particular play qualifies as a gray area in my opinion.

James Harrison Knocked Josh Cribbs Out When they were College Teammates

Remember last season when James Harrison came across the field and threw a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot on Josh Cribbs as he was being taken to the ground?  It may be tough to recall any specific instances of cheap shots from Harrison since there have been so many like this one and this one, but the hit on Cribbs was somewhat unique.  As it turns out, it was not the first time Harrison threw a cheap shot on Cribbs.  He also did it when they were college teammates at Kent State — when Cribbs happened to be the quarterback.

“He knocked me out,” Cribbs said according to the Akron Beacon Journal. “Freshman year, the first scrimmage we had — with the red jersey on.”

Cribbs added that once he came to he told Harrison, “Red means stop.”

During a conference call on Tuesday, Harrison said he didn’t remember the specific incident but admitted to doing something of the sort.  When you’ve been disciplined so many times that you actually threaten to retire, the occurrences probably have a way of blending together.

According to Cribbs, Harrison has also cheap-shotted one of his current teammates, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Josh said he once saw Harrison pick up then-University of Miami (Ohio) quarterback and and body-slam him.  After revealing all these secrets about Harrison’s cheap-shot ridden past, Cribbs then defended his friend.

“That’s what you’ve got to be playing the linebacker position,” he said. “We don’t want the nice guys. He’s a great talent.”

In other words, dirty were a part of James Harrison’s past, they’re a part of his present, and it’s highly like they’ll be a part of his future.

James Harrison Rips Roger Goodell, Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall

Where do we even begin with this one?  For starters, James Harrison is an idiot — but we already knew that.  This is the same guy who constantly cries about the NFL’s rules and even pretended he was going to retire rather than try to play without illegally hitting someone.

Maybe all that built up frustration is what caused the Steelers linebacker to call Roger Goodell “stupid”, a “dictator,” a “devil,” a “crook,” and a gay slur in a recent interview with Men’s Journal.  Perhaps the rules are why he was so angry he called Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison “clowns” while bashing the Patriots for stealing signals.  And maybe — just maybe — that is why he decided to call Brian Cushing “juiced out of his mind.”

The more likely scenario is that the guy is just a headcase.  However, there is still such a thing as crossing the line.  If the aforementioned trash talk doesn’t constitute crossing the line in your eyes, Harrison ripping on his own current teammates probably will.  Despite having won a Super Bowl and appeared in another with the people he was bashing, Harrison did that as well.

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