James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and the Commish Goodell: The Iron Fist and the Hard Hits

Pittsburgh Steeler‘s linebacker James Harrison has been fined the third time this season, and it has cost him a total of $100,000 so far for his hits upon Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi, Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.  Harrison had a meeting with Commissioner Robert Goodell, where Goodell discussed the issue of NFL’s stricter enforcement of hard hits.  Harrison came out of the meeting, seeing it as “semi-productive.”  Later, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu voiced his opinion concerning Robert Goodell and his abuse of power. Polamalu proposed essentially the system is not democratic, and there should be checks and balances against Goodell, utilizing the NFL players and team executives.

It’s a bit of an idealistic notion, I have to admit, but it sounds good.  The NFL is a business, with CEOs, CFOs and boards that the executives have to report to.  The players are nothing more than the “workers” of this business, albeit very high-paid workers. Much like they report to the head coaches, and the head coaches report to the organization managers, the players shouldn’t be able to undermine the rules of the organization.  In Goodell’s defense, he did give the NFL teams sufficient time to enforce the rules themselves since 2009.  But some of the NFL teams did not.

In 2010, New England Patriots defensive back Brandon Meriweather and Atlanta Falcons defensive back Dunta Robinson were both fined $50,000 each for their hard hits.  The iron fist of Godell has finally come down.  Is it an abuse of power, as Polamalu said? Or rather a stricter enforcement because the players and organizations couldn’t regulate themselves? I believe it’s more the latter.  Goodell wouldn’t have a need to enforce the rules, if the rules were followed originally in 2009. The NFLPA, team owners and the fanbase may disagree, and it may hurt the game generally. However, we have to get in the mind of Goodell for a moment.

Since Roger Goodell has come aboard, the excessive behavior of players (such as Brett Favre, among others) have impacted the NFL.  I’ve come to think he can’t take too much of this anymore.  With an impending lockout in 2011, Goodell is trying to cut the heads off the dragon before it becomes too much to handle. The restriction of hard hits is just one of those heads.


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