NFL notebook

Tomlin backs up Harrison

Calls linebacker’s hits ‘not fineable’

Associated Press / October 20, 2010

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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is a strong supporter of the NFL’s crackdown on dangerous hits. He’s equally adamant in his support for linebacker James Harrison, whose violent play resulted in a big fine and may have pushed the league toward its toughened stance.

Despite Tomlin’s argument that Harrison’s concussion-causing hit Sunday on Browns receiver Mohamed Massaquoi didn’t violate league rules, the NFL fined Harrison $75,000 yesterday.

Harrison’s fine was announced a few hours after the league said it would immediately begin suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits, particularly those involving helmets.

While Harrison was not suspended, his agent, Bill Parise, called the fine “staggering’’ and said he would appeal.

“I’ve talked to James, and he’s very upset,’’ Parise said. “He’s quite confused about how to play football.’’

Earlier, Harrison said it would be a “travesty’’ if the league took action against him.

Harrison, the 2008 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker, rammed headfirst into Massaquoi as the receiver was attempting to complete a catch during the second quarter. Massaquoi briefly crumpled to the turf but was soon on his feet, although he didn’t return to the game.

That play occurred a few minutes after Harrison’s helmet-first hit sidelined Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs with a concussion. Harrison lowered his head and drove into the left side of Cribbs’s helmet, a tackle the NFL said Monday was permissible because Cribbs was a runner on the play. That hit did not factor into Harrison’s fine, and Harrison wasn’t penalized on either play.

Tomlin called both tackles “legal hits, not fineable hits,’’ but the league didn’t agree about Harrison’s hit on Massaquoi.

“Cribbs was a wildcat quarterback, he’s a runner — and those guys are not protected,’’ Tomlin said. “The NFL is a dangerous place for non-running backs running in close quarters.’’

Harrison not only wasn’t apologetic for the hits, he said he tries to hurt players because it increases the Steelers’ chances of winning. Harrison drew a line between hurting and injuring, saying his intent wasn’t to put players out of games.

“I didn’t see those comments, but I know James,’’ Tomlin said. “James says a lot of things he doesn’t necessarily mean. He’s a tough talker.’’

In addition to Harrison, Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather and Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson will lose $50,000 each. Meriweather was docked for his hit on Ravens tight end Todd Heap and Robinson was fined for his hit on Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson.

Favre has meeting
Brett Favre spoke with an NFL security official in Eden Prairie, Minn., about inappropriate text messages and lewd photos he allegedly sent to a Jets employee two years ago when he played for the team, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity. Details of the meeting between Favre and NFL vice president for security Milt Ahlerich were not public.

Favre — who has consistently stonewalled media questions about the allegations against him — has seen his reputation take a hit and his record consecutive games streak get put in jeopardy, with the possibility of an NFL suspension.

Parcells reduces role
Bill Parcells has again reduced his role with the Dolphins. Parcells, 69, cleared out his office and no longer works at the team complex, but the team said he’ll continue as a consultant to general manager Jeff Ireland and coach Tony Sparano . . . The NFL has told the players’ union that it will stop providing health care for players and their families in March if the two sides do not reach a new collective bargaining agreement. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said he is working to figure out a plan to ensure medical coverage for players and their families should they be locked out.

Brown back in Texas
Contrite and humbled, Texans left tackle Duane Brown worked out with his team after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on banned substances. “Longest four weeks of my life,’’ he said. Brown, Houston’s first-round draft pick in 2008, said he “unknowingly took a supplement tainted with a banned substance.’’ . . . Titans quarterback Vince Young is day to day after tests show only a mild sprained left knee and ankle, and coach Jeff Fisher said Young could play against Philadelphia Sunday even if he misses a couple practices . . . With starter David Garrard (concussion) and backup Trent Edwards (right thumb) both injured, the Jaguars re-signed veteran quarterback Todd Bouman . . . The Buccaneers acquired defensive end Alex Magee from the Chiefs for an undisclosed draft pick in hopes of improving the NFL’s least productive pass rush. Tampa Bay is last in the league with four sacks through five games . . . The Bears released defensive end Charles Grant two weeks after signing him to a one-year deal . . . Browns defensive end Robaire Smith will be put on injured reserve today with a back injury.

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