James Harrison hasn’t heard from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker doesn’t expect to either, though he might be the only one.
The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year remains adamant he did nothing wrong during his violent hit on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in last Thursday’s 14-3 Pittsburgh victory, a play that left McCoy momentarily dazed and possibly concussed.
”I don’t think a suspension is worthy,” Harrison said Monday. ”I don’t think it’s worthy of anything, but that’s just my own personal thoughts.”
McCoy was scrambling late in the fourth quarter when he tucked the ball under his arm as if to run. With Harrison closing in, McCoy flipped the ball to running back Montario Hardesty.
Harrison slammed into the quarterback just after McCoy released the ball, with the helmets of the two players colliding before McCoy tumbled to the ground. He laid on the Heinz Field turf for several moments before slowly making his way to the sideline, though he returned a few plays later to throw a game-clinching interception in the end zone.
Harrison received a penalty for roughing the passer on the play and thinks that should be enough. The All-Pro believes the instant McCoy tucked the ball he became a runner and therefore fair game.
”Well, he took off running with it, and at the last second he, like, chucked and ducked,” Harrison said. ”So, people can see it.”
Cleveland wide receiver Joshua Cribbs absorbed a similar blow from Harrison last season, the same game in which Harrison crushed Cleveland’s Mohamed Massaquoi, giving Massaquoi a concussion.
The hits led the NFL to take aggressive steps to better protect defenseless players. The new rules frustrated Harrison and also dented his wallet. He was fined $125,000 alone in 2010 for taking what were considered illegal or unnecessary shots.
Cribbs, who played with Harrison at Kent State, understands the fury with which his former teammate plays. He just doesn’t think Harrison needed to unleash it on McCoy.
”I feel like he didn’t have to make that hit,” Cribbs said. ”At the same time, I’m not commissioner or I don’t have to make that call. We’ve got to heed to the rules of the game. I’m sure they’ll find some type of way to penalize him.”
Detroit Lions nose tackle Ndamukong Suh was suspended for two games after stomping on an opponent in November, and Harrison’s checkered past with the league office likely won’t work in his favor.
Not that Harrison cares.
”I’m not going to go with any what ifs,” he said. ”Whatever happens, when the time comes, I’ll give you what I’ve got on it then.”
The league typically hands out fines in mid-week, and there have been plenty of envelopes awaiting the Steelers at their lockers this season. Safety Ryan Clark has already been fined twice – the second time for $40,000 – for helmet-to-helmet hits that were far less direct than Harrison’s collision with McCoy.
The Steelers (10-3) travel to San Francisco (10-3) next Monday, and Harrison’s status adds another layer of unease on a team trying to win its second straight AFC North title.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey did not practice on Monday while they recover from high left ankle sprains sustained against the Browns.
Pouncey aggravated the same injury that kept him out of the Super Bowl loss to Green Bay. He doesn’t think this one is quite as severe and maintains he’ll play against the 49ers.
”It’s not as swelled up now, and I feel like I could do a little something on it now,” Pouncey said. ”But it just needs the right rest and the right rehab on it right now. (But) it’s a lot better than it was after the game.”
At least Pouncey got a head start on his rehab by staying off the field after getting injured. Not Roethlisberger, whose left ankle was twisted awkwardly beneath him while taking a second quarter sack. He returned in the second half, throwing for 178 yards after the break on basically one leg.
Roethlisberger spent the week in a walking boot and backups Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon took the snaps in practice on Monday.
Yet given an extra day to heal and his own habit of trying to play through pain – Roethlisberger who hasn’t missed a start this season despite playing with a sprained left foot and a fractured right thumb – his teammates expect to see their franchise quarterback on the field.
”You look at what Ben went through just to get back in the game, I would think he’ll play if he can do it,” left tackle Max Starks said. ”He’s had some time off, and I’m sure he’ll have a special shoe to wear … I’m constantly amazed by him, but never surprised.”