Hitman Role-Reversal

Apparently "the Hitman" will change. Just days before Rodney Harrison is scheduled back after a one game suspension served for a perceived helmet-to-helmet hit on Jerry Rice in Oakland on October 20th, Harrison spoke of altering his play.

Last week Rodney Harrison was adamant in his contention that he would not change his style stating matter-of-factly "eventually, they'll have to just kick me out of the league."

Yesterday he conceded in what amounts to defeat. Harrison is tired of fines, suspensions and hurting his team (not being on the field). The irony here is the hit did not warrant a suspension.

"Obviously I don't want to get suspended anymore," Harrison said. "I don't want any more fines. I'm going to play smarter, according to their rules. You have to. You can't be any good to your team if you're not on the field."

"I'm going to try to hit lower. That only makes sense."

The latest fine and eventual first suspension marks the ninth time in his career that the league has taken action against him. Now Harrison has doubt in his mind. Doubt that can eventually lead to poor tackling from one of the hardest hitting, surest tacklers in the league.

"I really don't know if it's going to slow me down or make me hesitate," Harrison said. "Most people, I think it would. But it's something you have to be aware of because, like I said, you're no good to your team if you're sitting on the sideline."

Is this the league the heads of the NFL envision? They continue to make it tougher and tougher for the defense to play their game. Every action seems to carry a fine. Fines breed players who are unsure of themselves.

Yet oddly enough CBS displayed the Harrison hit on one of its programs as a promotion for the NFL. What gives? You suspend the player, then promote his actions?

"It's tough, because we've been taught to hit in the chest area," Harrison said. "But now, you've just got to start going low . . . You're going to see a lot more guys going down with knee injuries, because you can't hit them up top."

Its funny how the media, ourselves included, will jump on a defense for missed tackles. Can we honestly do this when the opposite side of the spectrum says they will be fined and/or suspended? There is a fine line and the line continues to be hazy. This is the NFL. We are all for protecting the health of the players, but if you do not hit, you cannot tackle.

Helmet-to-helmet contact has been the main source of the leagues attempt to save its star players. That is easy to agree with, although sometimes it is virtually impossible to stop the momentum and positioning of a body. Maybe it was the receivers' fault for putting his head down at the last instant. There is no independent arbitrator to settle these disputes. Instead the party is guilty and has to prove his innocence to the same people who handed down the sentence.

Said Harrison: "I know someone is watching me ... When you jog out on the field and you see refs looking at you and whispering to their counterparts, pointing at you, you know they're looking at you."

The watcher is none other than Gene Washington, the NFL's director of football operations.

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