Harrison suspension was necessary

For the second time in three weeks, the NFL has suspended a repeat offender after James Harrison was sentenced to miss one game today for his illegal hit against Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in Week 14.

The league is making it clear that the suspension has little to do with the specific nature of the hit on Thursday night and everything to do with the fact that Harrison is failing to grasp that the restrictions on defensive players have intensified in an attempt to curb concussions and protect defenseless players.

The subject of the press release issued by the league’s PR department today: “Harrison suspended one game for fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in three seasons.”

“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.”

And I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “message” from the league. I’d consider it a natural next step as the NFL cracks down on recidivists. As seasons pass under the stricter rules, we’re bound to see more suspensions like these.

On the surface, the helmet-to-helmet hit on McCoy obviously isn’t an offense worthy of a suspension, but NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson and commissioner Roger Goodell obviously determined that it would finally take more than a fine to get through to Harrison.

Now, he’ll miss a very important Monday Night Football game against the 10-3 San Francisco 49ers. And so for the first time, his reckless play will hurt his team. Maybe that’ll cause Harrison to think twice next time he barrels down at an unsuspecting signal caller.

I know, “thinking twice” isn’t something football players naturally should be expected to do as they run plays at light-speed. But the game has changed and new information regarding concussions has become far too disconcerting for the game not to change on the fly. The majority of players have made the necessary alterations to their games.

Maybe this will be the wake-up call Harrison needed.