Pittsburgh Steelers’ linebacker James Harrison was on ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning and as you would expect the conversation turned to tackling in the National Football League. Basically Harrison stated that he has “lowered his target area” for tackling opponents and now goes towards the knees rather than staying high.
If you go over to profootballtalk.com and see the article on Harrison’s comments there, do yourself a favor and read the ‘user comments’ section. The overall hatred for Harrison is in full effect there and it is joined by an extremely large chorus of “football fans” who quite frankly don’t have a clue about the game of football as Harrison speaks it.
First of all, you have to take anything from that website with a grain of salt. They often get more things wrong than your local weatherman but they do have their following nevertheless.
Apparently, being unable to comprehend what Harrison is saying is difficult for those that commented in the negative. Harrison isn’t saying anything that several other players like the Ravens’ Ed Reed for instance hasn’t said before. In essence, tacklers would rather go low and possibly tear up a guy’s knee than go high and incur a FedEx envelope from the commissioner outlining their fine for a ‘blow to the head.’
What the ‘expert commentators’ at PFT read those comments as were those of a total ‘scumbag’ and ‘idiot’ and a ‘guy who should be banned from the league.’ Hey, there’s far more people who hate the Steelers than like them out there and I’m cool with that. What those folks must realize is that Harrison is trying to change his way of playing and in so doing is adhering to the wishes of Roger Goodell who wants to turn their favorite sport into a glorified edition of two-hand touch.
When Harrison says he “targets the knees” what he is in effect saying is that he is not going high on a player because he fears being fined or suspended and why shouldn’t he be? The common retort to that from the PFT ‘experts’ was “why can’t you aim for the waist area?” or “why can’t you properly form tackle in the mid-section?” Fair questions but not well-thought ones.
How many times a week do we see a defender attempt to make a perfect form tackle on a ball carrier yet still end up contacting a part of the opponent’s helmet? More often than not, the ball carrier ducks or lowers his head creating that contact and out comes the flag and in comes FedEx with the bill to be paid from the league office.
What many NFL fans refuse to or cannot do is see through things for the betterment of the game. Instead they only see things through the team-colored glasses they are wearing. James Harrison has made changes to his game and that is not easy to do especially when you’ve done something the same way for so long. Try overhauling your golf swing for example after swinging the same way for 20 years.
James Harrison is trying to play within the rules established by Goodell. He knows he’s a target and he recognizes that even a good tackle can result in a flag and/or fine.
The armchair linebackers of America need to see the forest through the trees on his comments. He isn’t going at knees to end careers any more than he was going at heads to end careers. He’s trying to find the middle ground which is shrinking more and more under the ‘player safety’ hypocrisy of Roger Goodell. Many of these fans who criticize him will miss the days of James Harrison when they’re watching the players tie on their flags before each game.
Marc Uhlmann writes for and co-owns www.steelcityblitz.com. Follow him on Twitter @steeldad and follow the website at @SCBlitz. He can be heard Mondays on Trib-Live Radio at 4pm ET talking Steelers.