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NFL players prepare for tougher enforcement of rules; Harrison returns to Steelers

James Harrison considers his future in the game. (Larry Roberts / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Updated at 9:42 a.m.

Linebacker James Harrison has returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice facility, after being excused from Wednesday's practice while he mulled retirement.

Filed at 7:39 a.m.

The NFL's defensive players are preparing for a weekend of games in which their play will face more rigorous scrutiny as the NFL cracks down on dangerous and illegal hits. Not all of them are happy about it and one, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison has threatened retirement after being fined $75,000 for his play Sunday.

Harrison's reaction to the cultural shift was the most extreme among NFL players who reacted negatively to the NFL's crackdown on dangerous plays after a Sunday littered with them. (Video of reactions is here; photo gallery of Sunday's injuries here; LaVar Arrington's take here.)

Coach Mike Tomlin said he had "a very productive conversation" with Harrison on Wednesday. "I thought it was beneficial to him and us if I give him a little time to cool off and give him the day. I excused him at that time. I'm sure he'll be back in the building and ready to play football [today].

"Needless to say, this is a very emotional thing for James. He's a very disciplined and regimented guy. He's passionate about the game of football. It bothers him that he may be perceived as a dirty player. He doesn't desire to be. Simply wants to play the game and play it well."

On Tuesday, Harrison said he might have to retire because of the NFL's edict mandating suspensions and fines for helmet-to-helmet and dangerous hits, a threat his agent said was a real one.

"I'm going to sit down and have a serious conversation with my coach ... and see if I can actually play by NFL rules and still be effective," Harrison said on Fox Sports Radio's "Into The Night with Tony Bruno. "If not, I may have to give up playing football."

Harrison was not penalized on plays that knocked two Cleveland Browns players, Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs, out of the game with concussions.

"I really truly hope it's something that can be done," said Harrison. "But the way that things were being explained to me today and the reasoning for it, I don't feel I can continue to play and be effective and, like I say, not have to worry about injuring someone else or risking injury to myself."

By Cindy Boren  | October 21, 2010; 7:39 AM ET
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Retire? What a joke, he and his agent are blowing smoke. He will play, because that's his career and income. If he retires(which he won't), so what! he will be replaced quickly at the drop of a hat by another linebacker that is drooling over getting his position.

Posted by: Theone9 | October 21, 2010 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Any player who wants to retire because of this rule should be encouraged to do so.

I keep waiting for the cameras to focus on a helmet that's been knocked off, only to discover there's a head inside that helmet!

Posted by: scoogy | October 21, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

He should retire to make a statement. The league makes these rules to increase offense and puts their own offensive players at risk. Sooner or later they will be playing two hand touch. It's just the nature of the game when you have one team trying to move past another and they are both huge behemoths with pads and helmets. They are trying to regulate rough like parents trying to tell their kids how to punch each others lights out. The NFLPA should be policing and fining players, not the NFL.

Posted by: raybell84 | October 21, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I see the C-O-N-SPIRACY in all this.

It actually started after the Darryl Stingley hit by Jack Tatum that paralyzed Stingley. Rule changes went into effect to protect offensive players and those rules have been upgraded over time.

Then you had Gene Washington, a former NFL wideout who went into the front office and was Taglibue's 'Dean of Discipline' and he constantly upgraded protections for the Offense while levying fines against the Defense. It is his legacy that continues to permeate the League office with these changes to the Game.

Here's the conspiracy: In order to have an 18 game season with competitive games and (hopefully) star players able to play, they must alter the game to effect this change. It serves that purpose as well as keeping down costs of payouts to retired players and the medical costs after a player retires. It puts more money in the Owners pockets while benefiting the players little.

Players will still get concussed and hurt and injured without headshots/helmet-to-helmet contact. But the League will simply say 'we changed the rules and are enforcing the rules in order to make the players health and safety a priority' while streamlining costs to treat football related injuries but still add 2 games.

Hello Work Stoppage...

Posted by: kahlua87 | October 21, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Well well, finally. Guys are nearly killed in the NHL and now the hammer has fallen there. The actual fan does not need to see career ending or life ending play. They never have. A bunch of tough guy internet commenters will not stop the changes. It didn't work withthe NHL and won't here. This Harrison is just another idiot that needs to be hurt personally in order to get the messgae. Don't be surprised when he is carted off the feild soon. It won't be long and if the NHL is any indication, players have very long memories. This retirement thing, just do it hotshot.

Posted by: skscottkeyes | October 21, 2010 11:33 AM | Report abuse

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