Unhappy Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison was excused from practice Wednesday after meeting with coach Mike Tomlin about the $75,000 fine Harrison incurred for a helmet hit on Cleveland Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. Tomlin thought Harrison needed time to cool off.
Harrison was so upset with the fine – and the NFL’s stricter enforcement of dangerous hits – that he said he was weighing retirement, although Tomlin expects him to practice today.
“I thought it was beneficial for him and for us if I gave him a little time to cool off and give him the day off,” Tomlin said. “I excused him at that time and we went on and had a productive day. I’m sure he will be back in the building tomorrow.”
Harrison said in multiple radio interviews that he isn’t certain that he can keep playing the way he has been taught, now that the league not only is fining players but is also threatening to suspend them for flagrant hits. He was fined $5,000 earlier this season for a hit on Titans quarterback Vince Young. Neither of the Harrison hits that drew fines was penalized.
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“How can I continue to play this game the way that I’ve been taught to play this game since I was 10 years old?” Harrison said on Sirius/XM radio. “And now you’re telling me that everything that they’ve taught me from that time on, for the last 20-plus years, is not the way you’re supposed to play the game any more? If that’s the case I can’t play by those rules. You’re handicapping me.”
The three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker also said he might retire, although the Steelers don’t seem to be taking that threat seriously. If he quit, Harrison would owe the Steelers a share of the $20 million in up-front money he collected when he signed a $51.2 million, six-year contract in April 2009.
Harrison was the 2008 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and has a reputation of being one of the league’s hardest hitters. His helmet hits about seven minutes apart in the second quarter caused Browns receivers Joshua Cribbs and Massaquoi to leave Sunday’s game with concussions.
Harrison was fined, but not suspended, for the hit on Massaquoi because the receiver could not protect himself as attempted to complete a catch.
Tomlin said he is convinced Harrison’s hit was permissible.
“It bothers him maybe that he’s being perceived as a dirty player,” Tomlin said. “He doesn’t desire to be. He simply wants to play the game and play it extremely well.”
Told that Harrison was contemplating retirement, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady joked that he hoped it was true.
“I’d love to for him to retire,” said Brady, who plays in Pittsburgh on Nov. 14. “If he retired, it would make me very happy.”
New England safety Brandon Meriweather says he’s sorry for his helmet-on-helmet hit on Todd Heap, and promised to “play within the rules” from now on.
Meriweather picked up a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness in Sunday’s game after hitting the Baltimore Ravens tight end in the head in the second quarter – a play Heap called “one of those hits that shouldn’t happen.” On Tuesday, Meriweather was fined $50,000 as part of the NFL’s crackdown on dangerous play.
“I’m sorry for the hit,” Meriweather said. “I understand the league is trying to protect the health of all our players.”
Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid said Kevin Kolb will be his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against Tennessee. Reid also said wide receiver DeSean Jackson will not play after suffering a concussion after a hit from Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson. Indianapolis suspended punter Pat McAfee for one game, after he was arrested for public intoxication. McAfee had a blood-alcohol content of 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit for driving in Indiana. The Browns lost defensive end Robaire Smith (back) and offensive right tackle Tony Pashos (ankle) to season-ending injuries. The Chargers have signed free agent kicker Kris Brown, a sign that Nate Kaeding (injured groin) won’t be able to kick Sunday against the Patriots.