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Has the NFL Painted Themselves Into a Corner With the Harrison Suspension?

We waited all weekend to find out the punishment that would be given to Steelers linebacker James Harrison for his helmet to helmet hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy last Thursday evening at Heinz Field. There was speculation on Monday that Harrison, a repeat offender on hits to the head as well as late hits on the quarterback, could receive a 1 or 2 game suspension as punishment.

Some didn't think such a penalty was possible because the hit on McCoy happened before the whistle, and despite the viciousness of the contact, and the concussion that McCoy received, there was enough gray area with regards to how the play unfolded and intent on Harrisons' part to warrant maybe just a fine.

Well, now with the suspension--the first such penalty by the league in 25 years--it's pretty obvious that the NFL is very serious about its stance on concussion-inducing flagrant fouls (no matter how gray an area may be) and are willing to take maybe excessive action if they feel it's necessary.

Now that the NFL has set this kind of precedent with Harrison, what happens the next time number 92 is penalized for a late hit out of bounds or even the kind of wishy washy roughing the passer infractions that he was called for last year in the games against the Raiders and Bills? Harrison is a pretty intense athlete who plays the game at a high-rate of speed. It's pretty naive to think that he won't get called for another personal foul the rest of his career.

And that's where I don't get the suspension. If you're going to set a precedent, why set one on the kind of play that occurred Thursday night?

It would be one thing if Harrison didn't show a willingness to change his style of play, but as coach Mike Tomlin stated in his Tuesday press conference, it was Deebo's first such infraction in 13 months.

How long must a player go without committing such a foul before his record is sort of expunged?

What happens if Harrison is called for another helmet to helmet hit during the last game of the regular season in Cleveland? Will he be suspended for the entirety of the playoffs?

What if Harrison gets called for a late hit on the quarterback in week eight of the 2012 season? Is he going to be suspended for four games, or maybe even the final eight weeks?

A lot of fans and players complain about the inconsistencies in commissioner Roger Goodell's fines and suspensions, and when we see things like this, one can see why. Now with this precedent being set, who knows where the NFL is heading.

Sometimes, setting a precedent is a tricky thing.