TORONTO - Another week goes by, another fine gets levied against Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison.
Harrison, the head hunter, is now the hunted, by the zebras and the NFL in their continuing quest to cut down on injuries that result from helmet-to-helmet hits.
Harrison’s latest penalty cost him $25,000 US, the result of a hit on Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was his fourth such fine this season with the total price tag now reaching $125,000. That’s not chicken feed, even for a player earning $3.55 million.
Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, speaking on Sirius NFL Radio, came to the defence of his player, acknowledging the fines aren’t chump change and hopes that it won’t take away from his aggressive style of play the Steelers need Sunday night when they travel to Baltimore for a big AFC North showdown between the two 8-3 teams.
“We talk about the money like it’s Monopoly money sometimes just because these guys happen to be professional athletes,” Tomlin said. “($100,000) is ($100,000), I don’t care how much money you make. I take offence at times just in general how all of us talk about the money ... He’s got two kids. That’s some serious college schooling right there potentially for those kids 16, 18 years from now.”
For the Steelers to be at their best, and that means to be intimidating defensively, they need Harrison to play at the top of his game. Through their opening 11 games, Harrison has registered 56 solo tackles and has been involved in 75 overall. He also has 10 quarterback sacks and has made two interceptions.
And he hits like a ton of bricks.
Tomlin doesn’t want any part of that equation to be taken away by Harrison holding something back.
“He’s been a catalyst when we’ve needed him at just about every turn,” Tomlin said. “He’s playing really good football.
“In regards to the penalties and fines, there’s no question it’s been troubling for him on a number of fronts. This is a very disciplined and regimented guy. He doesn’t like the perception of being a dirty player. He’s not by any stretch. He’s a football purist. But also, he’s concerned about hurting our team.”
The NFL, meanwhile, seems to be worried about him hurting players on other teams.
“He’s trying to play within the rules,” Tomlin added. “There’s just a lot of things that happen fast on an NFL field. Sometimes things get interpreted differently.
“We’re going to do the very best we can to try and play within the rules, play hard and play fair. That’s all we can control. We’re not going to get too out of whack when it comes to dealing with these things as long as I’m seeing guys doing everything within their power to play within the rules.”
What Tomlin is concerned about is that the officials may be overly focused on Harrison in Sunday’s game. In such a big game for both teams, the result could come down to penalties at key moments.
“We realize that if we go into Baltimore and we’re as heavily penalized as the past two weeks, chances are we’re not going to win the game,” Tomlin said. “Our preparation needs to be technique-oriented so we can be as clean as possible.”
It’s a fine line for Harrison to walk and one where the NFL believes he too often strolls on the wrong side of the tracks.
Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson is getting a lot of heat over breaking into a grin, maybe uttering a laugh, when seated on the sidelines and talking with a teammate late in the fourth quarter of Monday’s game, one where the Cardinals got smoked by San Francisco. Afterwards, when Anderson was quizzed about it and his answer wasn’t revealing enough, the reporter repeatedly questioned whether it was appropriate to be laughing at that time given the situation on the field. Anderson didn’t handle the follow-up questions well, got angry and ultimately left the post-game presser in a huff.
Don’t know about you, but I’m getting weary of all those long faces, those shots of heads hanging between legs or buried beneath towels when the camera swings to the losing side late in the game. Faces so sad you’d think they had just been told their house had burned down and their family with it.
So Anderson managed a smile. Big deal. Would it had been better had he been weeping like a baby?
For the majority of the past two decades I’ve covered the Blue Jays and never understood why after a loss, the locker room has more sense of doom and gloom than a funeral chapel. There is nary a peep.
Same goes for every losing team in every pro sport.
I think it’s more than a little much, it’s way over the top.
Whatever Deuce Lutui said to Anderson, it caused a momentary smirk, a smile. It wasn’t like he was on his knees, convulsing with laughter.
The Cardinals stink this season and Anderson right along with them. Does that mean he should look like the grim reaper 24 hours a day? Cut the guy some slack.