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Goodell Will Change The Face of The League If He Suspends Harrison

From a historical context, neither NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, nor the league itself, has precedent to suspend Steelers LB James Harrison for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Browns QB Colt McCoy.

Word on Harrison's punishment - which some have speculated a suspension is coming - is expected today.

Two players have been suspended for on-the-field actions under Goodell. Buccaneers DT Albert Haynesworth was suspended for five games after he stomped on the head of Ravens OL Andre Gurode when Haynesworth was with the Titans and Gurode was with the Cowboys. Gurode wasn't wearing a helmet, and suffered severe lacerations to his head. He missed the rest of the season and Haynesworth was thrown out of the game.

On Thanksgiving, the world witnessed Lions DT Ndamukong Suh stomp on the arm of Packers OL Evan Dietrich-Smith after shoving his head into the ground in a post-whistle altercation. Suh was also thrown out of the game along with his 15-yard penalty.

One doesn't need code breaking experience to see the common theme. Cowardly actions in a post-whistle environment that led to the removal of the player from the game.

No one is comparing the gutless actions of Haynesworth and Suh to that of Harrison - or at least if they are, it's because they don't want to see the differences. Suspending Harrison would mean the league is putting him in the same light as those two.

That's categorically false. But if he is suspended, it wouldn't be the first time Goodell established his own precedent for his own reasons. NFL life before Week 6 of 2010 was completely different than it was after it. After a few notable helmet-to-helmet hits, two from Harrison, Goodell began his fundraising campaign.

Changing the rules on the fly, Goodell decided to use Harrison as his main target in his war against the rules of his own league. In a week where he sought brutal financial justice for two helmet-to-helmet hits from Harrison, the league was selling an image of one of those hits on its web site.

They liked the image so much, it was the photo they used to tease their full line of pictures they were selling. It wasn't until someone pointed out the hypocrisy they took them down.

Obviously Goodell does not personally approve which photos the league would put up for sale, but even more obvious is the reasoning behind why whomever chose it. That's the culture within the league. It's obvious to those selecting the pictures that would be the best one to use.

Goodell wanted to change that, and made moves toward that new culture, but didn't inform the league's employees, including the players, until after it happened. Closing the barn door after the horses have escaped doesn't make sense.

Yet, he's doing it again.

A suspension in this case opens the league up to a level of regulatory involvement no sport has ever seen. They have as must justification to suspend Harrison as they do to suspend at least one player on every team this season.

That will, without question, change the league. Imagine the current culture is in place last year. Had the Bears defeated the Packers in the NFC Championship Game, how does Goodell justify not suspending Bears DE Julius Peppers for the Super Bowl? The hit he put on Aaron Rodgers was considerably worse than what Harrison did to McCoy.

What are the odds of something like that happening in the playoffs this year? What if the Ravens are hosting the Steelers for the AFC Championship Game and Goodell suspends Terrell Suggs for a hit that only used to garner a fine?

Most will try to suggest Harrison is a "repeat offender." He seems more like a "repeat accused." The league has successfully painted him as a bad buy; the league's ultimate heel character. It all stems from Week 6 of 2010. What people choose to ignore is the fact Harrison - unlike several other players in the league, including Ray Lewis, Cullen Jenkins and Dunta Robinson - has not been flagged or fined for anything either the game officials or the league view as a "dirty hit."

Harrison Haters will be shocked to read this, but, Harrison has actually been the most compliant player in all of this. He successfully changed the way he played. He wasn't happy about it (and a litany of comments aimed at Goodell this offseason supports that assessment), but he fell in line.

Robinson's done the same thing more often, and he's not being suspended. Richard Seymour just punched yet another player in an on-field incident, he was fined $30,000. That's his third fine this season alone.

A suspension now only shows Goodell is acting out of emotion. He's making it personal, and in doing that, he's ignoring historical precedent. He didn't like or appreciate Harrison's negative comments about him and he's been calculating his payback ever since.

But that's off the field stuff. Goodell suspends people all the time for off the field stuff. On the field? Stomp on someone after having received several fines and penalties for dirty play is the current grounds for suspension. Those are obvious. Hit a guy in the head, it's 25 grand. But now, Goodell has his patsy right where he wants him. He gets his own double-victory; message sent to the players that he's still in control of them, and personal revenge on Harrison, the guy he profits from while using him as his regulatory guinea pig. He can offer up Harrison as a sacrifice in his attempt to display concern for the health of players when the league will ultimately be sued by this generation of players for the amount of concussions they sustained in their careers.

Goodell created the "repeat offender" stigma, and has no issue with the media running with the phrase.

What's bogus about that is "repeat offender" is the NFL's Scarlet Letter. If he's a repeat offender, at what point do we enter conversations about statutes of limitations? How many games will the league force players to compete with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads?

Maybe not "players." Maybe just "Harrison."

A player who was fined at the start of Goodell's campaign, but hasn't been fined since then should not be suspended while players who have multiple offenses well after the campaign began aren't hearing the word. The league even rescinded a large portion of the fines Harrison received last year, noting he was playing the game the "correct" way. He hasn't been flagged or fined or any similar offense all season, and he's hit the quarterback plenty often.

Goodell's personal vendetta will become policy with the suspension of Harrison, and fans across the league - not just Steelers fans - should be outraged.