JAMES HARRISON of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been suspended without pay for one game by NFL Executive Vice President RAY ANDERSON as a result of Harrison’s fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in the past three seasons, the NFL announced today.
Harrison was penalized for roughing the passer in last Thursday night’s Steelers-Browns game for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit against a defenseless quarterback, Cleveland’s COLT MC COY. 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.”
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 December 20. Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the suspension may be appealed within three business days and an expedited hearing and decision would take place this week in advance of 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.
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 of the NFL Rule Book states: “It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. (a) Players in a defenseless posture are: (1) A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass.
Rule 12, Section 2, Article 13 (8) and (3) is also applicable to the roughing the passer penalty called against Harrison.
When a passer is outside the pocket area, as McCoy was, he is still afforded the protection of Article 13 (3), which prohibits defensive players from using their helmet against a passer who is in a defenseless posture, including by “forcibly hitting the passer’s head or neck area with the helmet or facemask, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the passer by encircling or grasping him”.
The applicable rules:
PASSER OUT OF THE POCKET
(8) When the passer goes outside the pocket area and either continues moving with the ball (without attempting to advance the ball as a runner) or throws while on the run, he loses the protection of the one-step rule provided for in (1) above, and the protection against a low hit provided for in (5) above, but he remains covered by all the other special protections afforded to a passer in the pocket (numbers 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7), as well as the regular unnecessary-roughness rules applicable to all player positions. If the passer stops behind the line and clearly establishes a passing posture, he will then be covered by all of the special protections for passers.
HITS TO PASSER’S HEAD AND USE OF HELMET AND FACEMASK
(3) In covering the passer position, Referees will be particularly alert to fouls in which defenders impermissibly use the helmet and/or facemask to hit the passer, or use hands, arms, or other parts of the body to hit the passer forcibly in the head or neck area (see also the other unnecessary-roughness rules covering these subjects). A defensive player must not use his helmet against a passer who is in a defenseless posture for example, (a) forcibly hitting the passer’s head or neck area with the helmet or facemask, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the passer by encircling or grasping him, or (b) lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the passer’s body. This rule does not prohibit incidental contact by the mask or non-crown parts of the helmet in the course of a conventional tackle on a passer.