Commentary

Don't get me to the geek

Updated: October 20, 2010, 6:08 PM ET
By Rick Reilly | ESPN.com

James Harrison, Mohamed Massaquoi Charles LeClaire/US PresswireThe Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison was fined $75,000 for a hit that knocked the Cleveland Browns' Mohamed Massaquoi out of the game. Will suspensions actually curb these types of hits?

Good, James Harrison. Please do retire. Make good on your threats and go drive a truck like your father did. And if you have as many head-ons in that job as you do in this one, heaven help you.

Harrison, the Pittsburgh Steelers hired headhunter, is talking about quitting after being fined $75,000 for using his helmet to knock not just one Cleveland Brown out of the game, but two, then issued words that were even uglier than his deeds:

Would Harrison Walk Away?

Schefter ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter reports that the Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison may be considering retirement. More

"I don't want to see anyone injured," Harrison said, "but I'm not opposed to hurting anyone."

I'm sorry?

"There's a difference. When you're injured, you can't play. But when you're hurt, you can shake it off and come back, maybe a few plays later or the next game. I try to hurt people."

Harrison does more than try. He purposely lowered his head into two Browns wide receivers -- Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi -- sending them off to the "How many fingers am I holding up?" guy. Both men went for tests Monday, and it was uncertain whether either will play anytime soon.

No problem, says Dr. Feelbad.

"A hit like that geeks you up," Harrison said. "It geeks everybody up -- especially when you find out that the guy is not really hurt -- he's just sleeping. He's knocked out, but he's going to be OK."

It didn't geek Patti Drake up. She was a kind of surrogate mom for Cribbs at Kent State, where he was, believe it or not, a teammate of Harrison's.

"It sickened me," she says.

If we can have a rule that a player who suffers a concussion can't go in for the rest of the game, why can't we have the same rule for players who hand them out?

You know what would geek me up? Harrison out of the game. Because as much as I abhor the way he plays, I don't want the day to come, 10 years from now, when he starts suffering depression and slurred speech and all the other goodies that come with these massive crashes. Because no amount of sleeping is going to make everything OK then.

God knows how Harrison would've reacted if the NFL had done what it should've, which is to bench him for two games, one for each player he appeared to try to decapitate. If we can have a rule that a player who suffers a concussion can't go in for the rest of the game, why can't we have the same rule for players who hand them out?

The second to be suspended should be the refs in that Steelers-Browns game. Neither of Harrison's hits was flagged, even though both were purposely helmet-to-helmet and the second one, the assault on Massaquoi, was the blatant lighting up of a defenseless player. If the refs had flagged the first, we might not have had to watch the second.

And what does all this say about us? The Romans used to pack the Colosseum to watch barbarism and cruelty, a spectacle that dehumanized the fans as well as the combatants. Are we starting to become those fans?

New England's Brandon Meriweather head-butted Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap in a shot so cheap and disgusting that you wanted to switch over to baseball.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson, Dunta Robinson
Eric Hartline/US PresswireOn Sunday, Dunta Robinson launched himself into Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson. He was fined $50,000 by the league.

Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson human-missiled Philly wide receiver DeSean Jackson so hard that both men were left concussed and sprawled out on the field as if they'd been leveled by a daisy cutter.

By the way, if you're counting, that's five Eagles who've been concussed this season. Hey, who wants to make the season two games longer?

All in all, seven players left games Sunday with brain injuries. It was the kind of Sunday that makes you wonder what kind of person you are for sitting there watching.

Watching men turn other men's cerebellums into oatmeal is starting to bring up the bile. We now know what these collisions can mean later in life. We know because the NFL is telling us. We know because we heard about what the battered brains of Hall of Famer Mike Webster and Terry Long looked like. Oh, yeah, they were Steelers, too, weren't they?

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin defended Harrison, saying he's a "model" for young players to imitate. Oh, yeah, he's a peach. Fined $5,000 for slamming Vince Young into the ground. Fined $5,000 for unnecessary brutality against a Cincinnati Bengal. Had to go to anger management and undergo psychiatric counseling after being charged with assault on his girlfriend. Owned a pit bull that bit his son, the boy's mom and his masseuse. When's he running for Congress?

Helmet-to-helmet hits involve two helmets. But when somebody asked Harrison whether he was worried about the long-term effects on his own brain, he scoffed. "That's the risk you take," he said.

An answer that begs the question: What brain?


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