NFL Update: Why James Harrison Needs to Shut Up and Play
By now I'm sure most watchers of the NFL have heard the news: Helmet-to-helmet hits won't be tolerated. Given the nature and severity of the injuries that players like DeSean Jackson, Mohammed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs all sustained, it should come as no surprise that the NFL is increasing measures to discourage any potential offenders from committing such a crime.
Namely, James Harrison.
In lieu of what I am calling, "Concussion Sunday," Harrison— who has actually gone on record as saying he, "Wants to hurt people,"—had the audacity to threaten retirement as a response to the NFL's newly enhanced protective measures.
Newsflash James, no one will miss you.
In a league where the average NFL career typically spans 3.5 seasons (thank you NFLPA) one would think Harrison would do all he can to make as much money as possible before the game that needs him so desperately, catches up to him. Especially when considering the fact that "He Hurt Me" (get it?) has already had a tour in the now-defunct NFL Europe as a part of the juggernaut Rhein Fire.
To further my point, the NFL is an offensively driven league. Rules aren't made for defensive players the way they are manufactured for offensive players, a la "not hitting a QB while on the ground" rule (Brady and Palmer), the "Horse Collar" (T.O.), and a myriad of others that were created for the sole purpose of protecting the league's most profitable players—the NFL is a business after all—the offensive ones.
Sure, people love to see guys like Harrison or Brian Urlacher lay the wood to a receiver running a crossing route, or Pro Bowl defensive ends like DeMarcus Ware or Dwight Freeney blindside an unsuspecting quarterback. This is America after all, and if there are two things America loves its unadulterated violence and touchdowns—lots and lots of touchdowns.
So what's the best way to increase one without sacrificing the other?
The short answer is, that there isn't one.
Take a look around. Week after week in the NFL you see jerseys dotting the stands at a staggering rate, but how many of those jerseys belong to defensive players?
As of Sept. 15, the NFL's top 10 jersey sales belonged to nine offensive players, meaning that one, yes, ONE, defensive player was in that most prestigious of apparel hierarchies.
Who was the lone defensive representative?
It was a Steeler, just not the one the NFL would miss oh-so-much if he were to retire. The answer ladies and gentlemen, was Troy Polamalu. Further, of the top 25 jerseys, three belonged to defensive players in all. Polamalu aside, Eric Berry and Patrick Willis were the only other two defensive players to be so distinguished.
From those numbers I deduce that the NFL, as stated previously, is out to protect its money makers.
I don't think there is a defensive player in the NFL right now who isn't moderately irked by the NFL's ruling. After all, the only players who stand to be hurt by such a rule are the defensive players. How often do we see wide receivers, running backs or even offensive lineman get flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact?
In a word: Never!
I'm not saying Harrison doesn't have a reason to be upset. There is definitely an obvious bias towards offensive players, but that's the league's agenda: To score points and keep those that score the points healthy.
Most NFL players make more in a year than the average American does in a lifetime. Harrison himself is in the second year of a $52 million deal, of which $12.5 million was guaranteed. So why is he complaining?
Harrison's gripe is normal. I understand that he feels hamstrung, not being able to do his job without fear of repercussions that he deems unnecessary. That's fine, we all go through that in our daily lives as we attempt to live off of average salaries, in average homes, with our average jobs.
What's become lost on Harrison is that he isn't average.
To make an analogy, former Nashville Predator goalie Dan Ellis once equated playing goalie to being a heart surgeon because of the skill involved. Ludicrous right? A guy who plays a game makes millions, while a man (or woman) save lives and only makes hundreds of thousands.
Parity right? More like parody.
The long and short of this whole argument is that Harrison needs to show a little humility. He needs to be gracious for the opportunities afforded to him before they're gone. Remember, he was once relegated to the NFL Castoff League—I mean NFL Europe.
So James, go ahead, retire if you feel like you can't work under the new rules, just remember, no one will miss you.
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