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Helmet-To-Helmet Hits In The NFL: Suddenly A Big Problem Again, Now That James Harrison Is Involved

The NFL has just released a new video on helmet-to-helmet hits. The topic is back in the news now that the league has suspended James Harrison for his hit on Colt McCoy.

Hilariously, though, although the video seems like a clear response to the Harrison suspension, it has very little to do with the circumstances under which Harrison was suspended. All of the footage is of hits against receivers. I don’t think there’s a player in the league who doesn’t understand the rule about helmet-to-helmet contact with a defenseless receiver. (How much defenders are able to adjust their games to that rule is another story, however – in fact, as Steelers Depot points out, the first example of a clean hit in the video is that of a defender making little apparent adjustment but making a clean hit, thanks to the fact that the receiver is a lot taller than he is.)

The Harrison suspension came after a hit in which Colt McCoy was, until the last second, acting as a runner, not a receiver, in which case he wasn’t defenseless. In any case, what the Steelers and their fans don’t understand about the NFL’s decision isn’t that you shouldn’t hit a defenseless player in the head. It’s why Harrison’s hit, against a player who wasn’t defenseless until the last possible second, would warrant a suspension, which normally is reserved for really nasty stuff that happens outside the whistles. The obvious conclusion for Steelers fans to draw here is that helmet-to-helmet hits are a big problem – when James Harrison is involved. When he’s not, they’re more of a minor annoyance.

And for what it’s worth, I’m all for cracking down on dangerous hits. I’d just like the NFL to display some consistency. If the NFL were suspending everyone who made a hit like Harrison’s, that would be fine. But it’s not.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.