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Steelers ROLB Harrison excused from practice, talks retirement

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By PFW staff

Steelers ROLB James Harrison, fined $75,000 for hitting Browns WR Mohamed Massaquoi in the helmet in Pittsburgh's 28-10 win vs. Cleveland Sunday, met with head coach Mike Tomlin on Wednesday and was excused from practice and meetings, according to multiple media outlets.

Harrison's absence from practice comes one day after he told Fox Sports Radio he was contemplating retirement. On Wednesday, in an interview with Sirius XM's Mad Dog Radio, he didn't commit to playing in Sunday's game at Miami and again brought up retirement.

The NFL ruled that Harrison violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(g) of its official playing rules, which prohibits a defender's first contact with a defenseless receiver trying to catch a pass to be with the defender's helmet, forearm or shoulder to the head or neck area of the receiver. The league also said Harrison violated Article 8(h) of the same rule, which makes it illegal for a defender to launch himself to hit a receiver in the head or neck area with a forearm, shoulder, helmet or facemask, even if initial contact is below the receiver's neck area, once a receiver has caught the ball but not had time to protect himself.

Of the hit on Massaquoi, Harrison told Sirius XM: "Even if you want to say it was helmet-to-helmet, it really wasn't helmet-to-helmet. His helmet hit my shoulder pad if you slow everything down and look at it. We didn't actually hit helmets. It was the shoulder pad. And he lowered his target area by a good three feet. I mean, there's nothing really else I can do and that's why I'm so frustrated. How can I continue to play this game the way that I've been taught to play this game since I was 10 years old? And now you're telling me that everything that they've taught me from that time on, for the last 20-plus years, is not the way you're supposed to play the game anymore? If that's the case, I can't play by those rules. You're handicapping me."

On Wednesday, Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, told ESPN.com that Harrison was considering retirement.

"We wouldn't joke about this," Parise told ESPN.com. "This is a very serious issue. James is very concerned about how to play football. If James is going to be fined $75,000 for making a legal tackle, then how do you go play football? It's quite frustrating to James, to Coach [Mike] Tomlin, to me, to everybody."

The fine for Harrison, as well as $50,000 fines for Patriots S Brandon Meriweather and Falcons CB Dunta Robinson, came as the league ramps up its discipline for violations of player safety. NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson has said suspensions are even possible for illegal hits.

The way we see it

Harrison, 32, is one of the game's top players at his position and one of the Steelers' most important players. He is an outstanding pass rusher, already having notched 40 tackles, 4½ sacks and four forced fumbles in just five games, and he is a very good run defender, too. Obviously, were he to leave the game, it would have a significant effect on the Pittsburgh defense. That said, it would seem unlikely Harrison would walk away from the game while playing at an elite level.

On Tuesday, Tomlin said something interesting about Harrison, who Sunday drew a distinction between trying to hurt and injure players, saying he intended to try and hurt people — meaning to keep them out of the game for a short time — not injure them, or keep them out for the game. 

"I didn't see those comments, but I know James," Tomlin said, according to SteelCityinsider.net. "James says a lot of things he doesn't necessarily mean. He's a tough talker, like a lot of guys that play the game at this level. If you want to get to know James, catch him on a Tuesday when he's walking through the building with his son. He's a big softie."

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