James Harrison will kill you. But should he be allowed to?

Michael Moses

Football is a man’s sport. It’s played by modern day gladiators. Players know the major risks of putting on the pads and lining up against the world’s top athletes who have mentalities of Freddy Krueger. The bottom line is that players know on any given play, a devastating injury could happen: a broken neck, a snapped spinal cord or, thank God it hasn’t happened yet, death.

But the hits are why the game of football is so thrilling. It is unlike any other sport in the world.

During last week’s games, a number of near-devastating hits occurred. The hits caused concussions and enough gasps from fans to take out the air in the Superdome.

The NFL has since made multiple statements that the league will not tolerate such behavior from its players. The ongoing drama has been discussed on sports shows since the games ended on Sunday.

“We’ve got to get the message to players that these devastating hits and head shots will be met with a very necessary higher standard of accountability. We have to dispel the notion that you get one free pass in these egregious or flagrant shots,” Ray Anderson, NFL vice president of football operations, said on ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning”.

Starting this Sunday, the NFL will immediately begin suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits that violate rules, particularly those involving helmets.

Brandon Meriweather of the New England Patriots delivered a helmet-to-helmet blow to Baltimore Ravens tight end Todd Heap that resulted in Patriots head coach Bill Belichick benching his safety. DeSean Jackson, the electrifying wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, was absolutely crushed on a crossing route by Atlanta Falcons corner Dunta Robinson. Both players left the field with concussions and are not expected to play this week.

Given the medical aspects of these hits, is the NFL doing too little or too much? Are league officials taking the game away from the players?

“There’s a big difference between being hurt and being injured. You get hurt, you shake it off and come back the next series or the next game. I try to hurt people.

-James Harrison, Pittsburgh Steelers

James Harrison, a former Flash and current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker, does not agree. Harrison was one of the main targets this past Sunday, after sending Cleveland Browns wide receivers Josh Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi to the sidelines with questionable shots.

The 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year is quick to point out he was not penalized for either one of the hits.

“There’s no way I could be fined for that. It was a good, clean, legit hit,” he said after Sunday’s game.

League officials may be taking the politically correct route, but they are threatening to change the way the game is to be played. Players know what they are getting themselves into. Fans know such things could happen.

It is one thing to penalize cheap hits, I’m all for that. Protect the players and try to minimize such ferocious behavior. Defenders hitting defenseless players? Send them a bill.

But to suspend players such as Harrison for playing football, I cannot agree with that. Even Robinson’s hit on Jackson was a football hit. It was not helmet-to-helmet, as Robinson led with his shoulder, hit Jackson’s chest, and exploded up. That’s how every defensive player is taught to hit from day one. I’m sorry, but there is no possible way to penalize a player for doing his job.

The game has evolved, and players are stronger and faster than ever before. Sure, it’s dangerous and you never want to see these men get seriously injured. The players do not want to injure each other, but it is and always will be a part of the game.

Mike Tyson wasn’t taken out of the ring for punching opponents in the head too hard. His opponents knew what they were getting into. And guess what? People still watched, knowing it would happen.

Like James Harrison said, there’s a difference between wanting to hurt someone and wanting to injure someone. He is paid to defend and intimidate the opposition, and that’s what he will continue to do.

Contact Michael Moses at mmoses3.edu.