Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison Stuck in Time
The late Jack Tatum, one of the hardest hitters in NFL history, played from 1971 to 1980 and never shied away from his reputation, writing a book with the title They Call Me Assassin.
He followed up that effort with a pair of books: They Still Call Me Assassin: Here We Go Again, in 1989, and Final Confessions of an NFL Assassin, in 1996.
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison plays as if he's a contemporary of Tatum's, seeking to carry on the legacy. Never mind that the NFL today is in a different era with different standards.
Harrison either doesn't get it, doesn't care or both. And the NFL finally had enough after his latest kill shot, a jarring, helmet-to-facemask blow on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. The league this week suspended him without pay for one game, making Harrison the first player to miss game time as a penalty under the NFL's revamped policy regarding such collisions.
More than this particular hit, Harrison's pattern of behavior led to his suspension. According to the league, it was his fifth illegal hit against a quarterback in three seasons.
"In addition to four fines for illegal hits against quarterbacks in 2009 and 2010," the NFL said in a news release, "Harrison also was fined twice for unnecessary roughness during that period. Harrison totaled six fines in that two-year period."
There's never any sense of regret or remorse from Harrison. Far from it. He tweeted "Lol!" upon learning of the suspension. He said in an interview that if he really hit McCoy, he would have almost knocked him out (which was the case anyway).
Later, he posted another out-of-touch Tweet: "Thank you to all my fans and supporters, I'm just going to move on from here and get ready for my next game."
Clearly, Harrison relishes his well-earned, outlaw image, which is aptly aided by the black visor on his helmet. If there was any doubt that he couldn't care less what folks think, he cleared it up in a Men's Journal profile earlier this year. Titled "Confessions of an NFL Hitman," it featured a scowling, bare-chested Harrison with crossed arms and two huge handguns.
Since Harrison shows no signs of adapting to the new NFL, which is trying to eliminate certain hits that were routine for decades, two things seem likely:
He's going to face additional and longer suspensions. And he's going to seriously hurt someone, maybe like Tatum hurt Darryl Stingley in 1978.
We're not in the '70s anymore. Harrison should get with the times or quit playing.