It's becoming every bit the Sunday tradition as laughter-filled pregame shows, thrilling games called by Gus Johnson and "60 Minutes" coming up next except on the West Coast: James Harrison(notes) getting flagged for a personal foul and then complaining about it after the game. The only difference is, this time the Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker might have a point.
1. This is a close one. It's not a clear penalty, but it's not definitely clean either. (You can vote on this below.) However, I'd wager a good chunk of change that Brian Urlacher(notes) or Ray Lewis(notes) doesn't get flagged for making the same exact hit. Fairly or not, James Harrison is being profiled for his past behavior. In this case, he made a clean hit and was flagged for it because of the name on the back of his jersey.
[Rewind: James Harrison threatens to retire over dirty hit rules]
2. Don't cry for him, though; Harrison is by no means an innocent bystander in this. He brought this scrutiny upon himself with years of actual dirty play, high-profile condemnations of Roger Goodell's new policies and vows of defiance of new rules. He's been fined $80,000 this year already but said before this week's game that he was no longer worried about calls. Harrison didn't just put the microscope on himself, he adjusted the slide and focused it too.
3. That being said, the fact that Harrison is usually guilty doesn't mean he's always guilty. This was a bang-bang play. Fitzpatrick took the snap from the shotgun and released the ball in 1.25 seconds. Harrison blitzed up the middle and was tasked with sacking the quarterback. What was he supposed to do? He didn't launch himself, he didn't hit Fitzpatrick in the chin (despite what Solomon Wilcots said on the CBS broadcast) and he didn't hit him late. Of course, he hit him with the crown of his helmet. Would Goodell prefer that he used a throw pillow to make the tackle?
4. Harrison after the game: "[The flag] isn't going to change the way I play. There was nothing wrong about the play."
5. There's no good way to go about this. Profiling is effective when done properly. Andre Johnson(notes) shouldn't be suspended for beating on Cortland Finnegan because of his past history; if that was Hines Ward(notes), I'd say ban him for a game. But Harrison can't be expected to play like he's in an intramural flag football game. It's a familiar refrain, but this is football. Forget the emphasis on dirty hits and tell refs to watch the game with an open mind and police the game accordingly.