“The James Harrison Rule” – A Creative, Drastic Solution To The NFL’s Ongoing Injury Problem

Injuries happen in all sports – especially football.

It would be awesome if we could develop a way to completely solve the problem, but we never will.  Football is a violent sport, and when you have guys as big and as fast as NFL athletes, injuries will invariably follow.

However, every year, injuries DO occur that could be avoided – especially when guys like James Harrison are involved.

james-harrisonImage source: LATimes.com

Treat James Harrison (And Others) Like How They Act

Full disclosure:  I don’t like James Harrison much because I don’t respect some of the things he does on the field and some of the comments he makes off of it.  It takes more strength to avoid a fight than to start one.  It takes much more self-control to hold your tongue when you dislike someone than to mouth off.

James Harrison often acts like a child, repeatedly.  So to deter him and change his behavior, perhaps it is time that he – and others like him – be treated like one.

Children have to be told over and over again not to do the same thing.  Children have to be disciplined when they keep breaking rules.  Children have to be punished more and more severely until they finally wake up.

So then, for cases like Harrison, what is the best solution?

When players like Harrison, or Ndamukong Suh, or others KEEP breaking rules and KEEP injuring players and choose to just KEEP paying the same fines and serving the suspensions…then the disciplinary system is NOT working.

Here is a creative, drastic solution, the “James Harrison Rule” if you will, that could finally have the impact the NFL so clearly desires.

A Creative, Drastic Solution To A Pervasive Problem

The next time a player injures an opponent by BLATANTLY breaking a black and white rule…he must not only pay the fine, but also sit out until the injured player can return.

When Todd Bertuzzi took out Steve Moore from behind, he was suspended for two years.  But that wasn’t good enough.

Bertuzzi broke the rules of manhood and hockey – you don’t blind-side someone from behind.  He broke the laws of this country – that would have been an assault in real life.

Most importantly, Steve Moore NEVER PLAYED AGAIN.  Todd Bertuzzi shouldn’t have played again either.

If a player knew that he would have sit out until his opponent was healthy, how many players would KEEP breaking the rules in order to try and injure an opponent?

James Harrison got it easy.

He got to skip a week, take some time off, and come back fresh.  Nobody, especially veterans that have been around as long as Harrison, wants to play Monday Night and then again on Saturday, which the Steelers do next week.

Sure, his team lost, but they are still in the playoffs.  In fact, they will probably get to go to Denver on opening weekend – the Steelers aren’t worried about that at all.

But Colt McCoy is still out.

Just think about that.

The guy that played by the rules is out for LONGER than the guy that broke them.

The guy that played fair is suffering a greater punishment than the guy that cheated.

Let’s not forget that Harrison got to finish out that game – completely healthy.  McCoy sleepwalked his way through the rest of that game, and may miss the last three games of the season.

colt-mccoy-dazed-after-hit-by-james-harrisonImage credit: Don Wright/Associated Press via Washington Post

At this point, it doesn’t matter how much I dislike James Harrison – that’s just not fair.

Drastic Times Call For Drastic Measures

Harrison should be out until Colt McCoy returns.  If that’s not until next season and Harrison has to miss the playoffs…so be it.

You might think this is drastic…probably because it’s so different. Nobody has ever thought about implementing a rule like this before.

And obviously there would need to be some checks and balances on it.

First off, I think you would definitely need to have a committee of players AND referees to decide whether or not given plays were illegal or not.  Secondly, you would have to make sure that the Browns weren’t sitting McCoy on purpose, just to hurt the Steelers (even though I see a great amount of equality and irony in that idea…that’s not the purpose of this rule).

But just think about these three questions:

  • Is the current system working?
  • Would this new rule be UNFAIR?
  • Would this new rule be a better deterrent than what’s in place?

In my mind, the answers to the first two questions are resounding “Nos!”

As to the third, would this be a better deterrent?  I think so.

Regardless, sometimes you have to try new and creative punishments.  If you don’t, the children of this world will keep acting like children.

About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. boilerjoe_96 says:

    Despite being a Boiler fan…you are a punk. Steeler hating punk. Still living in mommy's basement in SC?

    Football is a tough sport and people get hurt. Harrison has hit much harder before and will do so again. 'Justice' is certainly not equally applied in NFL, commish hating on Harrison, just like your sorry ass. You're probably an Obama voter right?

    How those Dolt's doing this year?

    • thedrtwitch says:

      Actually, I am a Purdue fan, I voted for McCain, and the Colts are awful. I'm comfortable with all of those things.
      Whatever you feel about the rules doesn't really matter…when a player breaks the rules and an opponent is injured because of his actions, that doesn't fall under the realm of fairness in any walk of life.
      Also, I happen to like the Steelers as an organization and I love the way they play defense. Troy Polamalu is breathtaking…he also happens to tackle correctly.

  2. I think Dr. Z proposed this or something very like it some years back.

  3. Maybe they should also suspend the Browns coaching staff till the little Filly can play again – they are the ones who sent him back on the field declaring him ok to play?

    • I will definitely second this. Their excuse was that their medical staff was tending to other players. I guess the starting quarterback didn't warrant attention? I can understand how coaches might not always realize in the heat of the moment that a guy is dazed, but SOMEONE on the sideline needs to, and the head coach is ultimately responsible for what goes on during the game on the sideline. I do believe there should be additional measures to protect a guy like McCoy from himself and going back in the game when he's not in his right mind to decide. And that's totally independent of Harrison.

    • thedrtwitch says:

      I don't disagree with that. The Browns' coaching staff DEFINITELY did not have Colt McCoy's best interests at heart.
      Of course, if James Harrison simply played by the rules, we probably wouldn't be talking about this.

  4. All of this depends on if Harrison actually was "BLATANTLY breaking a black and white rule." McCoy tucked the ball and ran about 5 yards laterally, making him a running back according to the NFL. Running backs aren't protected from helmet-to-helmet hits (a poor rule, but for another conversation). At the last second, he untucked the ball and threw. Yes, it was helmet to helmet. But it wasn't a hit that was breaking any rules. The NFL obviously suspended Harrison for more of his past than the hit itself (according to the NFL at least). So regardless of if your new rule was in place, he still wouldn't be sitting.

  5. There are too many variables to implement this in the NFL. First, you don't know how much injury was caused by putting him back in the game. You have other factors like the equipment. If a certain type of helmet would have prevented the injury, but McCoy chose not to wear it, why would all the blame be on Harrison? Once you've had one concussion, you're more vulnerable to getting another. So if someone else gives McCoy a concussion next year, he's suspended for even longer when the same hit on another QB might not have caused a concussion at all?

    While I agree about the Bertuzzi-Moore hit, what Harrison is doing is nothing like that. Bertuzzi's actions are more in line with what Albert Haynesworth or N. Suh have done with stomping on other players. If you do something that is outside the rules of the game or during a dead ball situation that injures another player, I could see a reciprocal system like this working.

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