Franco Harris Says Tackling Problem Is Systemic

Former Steelers great Franco Harris weighs in on the controversy over hard hitting, or tackling headfirst, or whatever we should call the trouble James Harrison is in. (I’ll just call it Harrisongate.) Harris says that he understands head injuries are a problem, but that it’s not a problem that can be fixed merely by telling NFL defenders not to tackle the way they already do:

“To me, I don’t think that makes sense,” he said. “To go back and tell someone, ‘We just made a new rule, you did it in the past, so you’re going to pay the consequences now.’”

He adds that suspensions could have a big impact on the game.

“How do you make sure that a player can do their job effectively without worrying about being suspended?” …

He says the culture in football won’t change overnight and it will have to start at the high school level and then make its way to the NFL.

This is a sensible point. Fines and suspensions might help, but they probably won’t fix the problem as well as some sort of coordinated teaching effort might. I’m actually amazed that defenders are able to lay off of quarterbacks and punters as often as they are. The sort of aggression that leads to the kind of hits Harrison meted out this week has to be hard to overrule, psychologically, and if that’s the way Harrison is tackling, it’s probably going to be hard for him to stop.

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