PITTSBURGH — Steelers linebacker James Harrison called his meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “semi-productive,” saying he spoke his mind about the stricter enforcement of dangerous hits — a policy teammate Troy Polamalu criticized for causing paranoia around the league.
Harrison, a former AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, briefly threatened to retire after the NFL fined him $75,000 for his Oct. 17 helmet hit on Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi.
Harrison returned to the team after being given a day off by coach Mike Tomlin, but responded with what he called one of his worst games that week against Miami.
Goodell requested the meeting with Harrison, held Tuesday at league headquarters in New York during the Steelers’ day off. Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert accompanied Harrison.
“It was just for him to hear my side of things and for them to help me understand exactly what the rules are as far as helmet-to-helmet contact,” Harrison said Wednesday. “So I spoke my mind. They said what they had to say. We had a semi-productive meeting, I guess. … I came away with a better understanding, and I think they got a better understanding of how I see things.”
Harrison is appealing the fine, with a hearing set for Nov. 9. Harrison also was fined $5,000 for a Sept. 19 hit on Titans quarterback Vince Young, and he possibly could be fined for a late hit Sunday on Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“It may have been a little late,” Harrison said. “So I can understand and see if I was fined for that.”
Harrison’s major complaint is when a defensive player tries to avoid dangerous contact, but an offensive player inadvertently instigates it by ducking his head. Harrison insists that occurred on the Massaquoi hit, one of two by Harrison that caused concussions to Browns receivers.
“That’s what I have an issue with, there being consequences and repercussions for something that I can no longer control,” Harrison said. “The response was that I’m a defensive player, and I’m responsible for whatever happens when I make contact with an offensive player.”
Polamalu, the five-time Pro Bowl safety, is even more critical of the NFL’s policy than Harrison is. Polamalu contends Goodell has too much control, and that players and team executives should have a say in deciding fines.
“He’s got all the power, and that may be part of the problem. There needs to be some type of separation of power, like our government,” Polamalu said Wednesday. “I don’t think it should be based totally on what two or three people may say that are totally away from the game. It should be some of the players that are currently playing.”
Since the NFL announced its stricter policy, Polamalu said, “There is definitely a paranoia that is unneeded. Just because we had a few weekends ago, I think somebody said, five (suspect) hits out of 1,000. Yeah, I think there is too much paranoia.”
Polamalu also believes the NFL’s stance could lessen the sport’s popularity in Europe, where the 49ers and Broncos played on Sunday. The NFL is aggressively marketing its game overseas, with talk that London could have a franchise within 10 years.
“If people want to watch soccer, they can watch soccer. The people who are attracted to this game, they’re going to see the big hits, they don’t care about touchdowns,” Polamalu said. “So you’re also taking apart what attracts people to this game.”
Polamalu said having his own meeting with Goodell probably wouldn’t solve anything.
“Sometimes I think it just falls on deaf ears,” Polamalu said. “I think a lot of players have said a lot of things that I guarantee you he heard. … I don’t think there’s any confusion. I just think the problem is they’re wrong.”