The NFL suspended Steelers linebacker James Harrison for one game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Harrison plans to appeal the suspension, Schefter reported.
Harrison becomes the first player to get suspended under the NFL's enhanced enforcement of player safety violations. This is a strong message from the league on how it will discipline repeat offenders when it comes to player safety.
While this is Harrison's first personal foul of the season, he has a long track record when it comes to controversial hits. In addition to four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010, Harrison also was fined twice for unnecessary roughness during that period. Harrison totaled six fines in that two-year period.
The 2011 League Policies for Players manual states: “Players who were fined for violations in 2009 or 2010, and whose fines were either partially or fully upheld, will be considered second and/or repeat offenders under this policy.”
A statement from the NFL says Harrison may not practice this week or be at the team practice facility or stadium for any other activities during the suspension. He will be reinstated on Dec. 20.
But Harrison has three days to appeal the decision under the collective bargaining agreement. An expedited hearing could take place before this weekend's games. Appeals are heard and decided on a rotating basis by either Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, the officers jointly appointed and compensated by the NFL and NFLPA to decide appeals of on-field player discipline.
On Monday, Harrison said he didn't think he would get suspended. "I don’t think I have anything to worry about," Harrison told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Harrison doesn't believe it was an illegal hit because McCoy was scrambling near the line of scrimmage, which made him a ball-carrier and not a passer. Others argue that McCoy was still a passer because he threw the ball before getting hit from Harrison.