A year ago, James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers left two Cleveland Browns players, Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs, reeling after helmet-to-helmet hits.
In the teams’ game Thursday night, Browns quarterback Colt McCoy was flattened by a Harrison hit that drew a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty and obliterated a bit of McCoy’s memory.
“Honestly, I don't remember [being hit],” McCoy told the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram after the game. (Related: McCoy’s father rips Browns.)
He was out of the game, won 14-3 by the Steelers, for two plays and his coach, Pat Shurmur, said he “was fine to go back in,” presumably passing all the sideline concussion tests.
“From what I understand, once the quarterback leaves the pocket, he's considered a runner,” he said, (via the Plain Dealer). “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 mulled retirement after being fined $75,000 for hits in the Browns game last year; by the end of the season, he had been fined $125,000. Those hits helped trigger a heightened awareness of the dangers of helmet-to-helmet hits and a debate about whether changing the style of play was good. Harrison may well get a further explanation of what is allowed, along with a hefty fine, from the NFL. (Watch here and decide for yourself whether Harrison should be fined. Compare with video of the 2010 hits on Massaquoi and Cribbs.)
Massaquoi said Harrison was just being Harrison Thursday night. “I don’t know if it’s his intention to hurt people. That’s his style of play.”
During Media Day at the Super Bowl in February, Harrison addressed the matter in a somewhat playful, imaginary conversation with the commissioner.
“I don't want to hurt nobody. I don't want to step on nobody's foot or hurt their toe. I don't want to have no dirt or none of this rubber on this field fly into their eye and make their eye hurt. I just want to tackle them softly on the ground and if you all can, we'll lay a pillow down where I'm going to tackle them, so they don't hit the ground too hard ... Mr. Goodell.”
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