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James Harrison: I’ve lowered my target, now I hit guys in the knees

NFL: AFC Wild Card Playoff-Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos

Jan 8 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker (87) is knocked out of the game on this tackle after a catch by Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison (92) in the second quarter of the 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Sports Authority Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE


Steelers linebacker James Harrison became the poster boy for the NFL’s crackdown on hits to the head of defenseless players last year, and after multiple fines and a suspension, Harrison says he got the message.

Unfortunately for the Steelers’ opponents, that message isn’t necessarily one that’s going to make them any safer. Harrison said on Mike and Mike in the Morning that now instead of trying to hit players in the head, he’ll hit them in the knees.

“I’ve really lowered my target area to where it’s down around the knees,” Harrison said. “Situations come along where you could tackle the guy high. I don’t do that anymore. I tackle the guy low.”

Harrison said, however, that he doesn’t think that makes life any easier on opposing players. Harrison referenced his hit to the knee of Broncos receiver Eric Decker in last year’s playoffs, a hit that caused Decker to suffer a sprained MCL, as the kind of hit he makes now that he wouldn’t have made before he was suspended last season -- and a hit that Harrison doesn’t think makes the game any safer.

“I could have tackled him high, but if I had hit him high, I probably would have gotten a helmet-to-helmet or something and gotten fined,” Harrison said. “So I hit him low and strained his MCL. . . . They’re saying it’s a life-threatening injury to hit a guy in the head and he gets a concussion and so on and so forth, but I think a life-threatening injury is to go low on a guy and blow out his ACL or whatever, and he’s not able to come back the way he was before. Now he can’t make a living, he can’t feed his family, he can’t do what he does. That’s life-threatening to me.”

Harrison has long expressed doubts that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and others in the league office are sincere about their desire to make playoffs safer.

“It’s for player safety -- at least that’s what they say,” Harrison said. “But the way I see it is that it all comes down to something different. You say you want to make the game safer but yet you turn around and want to add extra games. How is that making us safer?”

That’s a good question. And whether Harrison lowering his target makes the game safer is also a good question.