Tomlin expects Harrison to return to practice tomorrow

| Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2010

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he sent James Harrison home today so the disgruntled outside linebacker could take "a little time to cool off."

"I'm sure he'll be back in the building and ready to play football tomorrow," Tomlin said after practice today.

Harrison is frustrated and perplexed after getting fined by the NFL $75,000 Tuesday for a hit that knocked Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi out of last Sunday's game.

Harrison said Massaquoi lowered his head before the tackle, which is why it turned into a helmet to helmet hit. Harrison said during interviews on several national radio shows that he is contemplating retirement because of restrictions placed on him by NFL rules.

Tomlin said such talk is just that — talk. He implied that Harrison would have practiced today had Tomlin not sent him home.

"It bothers him that maybe he's perceived as a dirty player," said Tomlin, who still thinks that Harrison hit on Massaquoi was a legal one. "He doesn't want to be. He simply wants to play the game and play it extremely well."

When asked if Harrison will have to change his style of play, Tomlin said, "At the end of the day no. We just have to take a conscious effort in terms of safeguarding players as much as we can."

Several Steelers defensive players today voiced frustration over the rules and confusion over what is now considered a legal hit.

Said Tomlin, "It's a very emotional thing but there's no confusion."

The Harrison fine comes as the NFL is cracking down on what it perceives as head hunting with stricter enforcement of the rule that prohibits hitting a defenseless player above the shoulders.

Free safety Ryan Clark said he is not going to change his approach to the game. But, the Steelers player representative added, "You think about the Wes Welker hit (in 2008). I hit him with all arms and shoulders. So if that starts to be a penalty we'll wear flags and see what we can do from there."

Clark and several others said they'd like to see the NFL take measures to protect defensive players as well.

"You look at a situation with Troy (Polamalu), who gets a head injury (in the Browns game) standing straight up and (running back) Peyton Hillis lowers his head and hits Troy in the face, there's no fine about that," Clark said. "Nobody talks about that because Troy didn't lay on the ground, because that film wasn't shown over and over on ESPN."

Polamalu said today after practice that he is "fine" though the Pro Bowl safety added that Hillis initiated helmet to helmet contact.

"I think (protection of players) should be both ways," Polamalu said.

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