Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 12/28/11

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 06: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers gestures during the game against the Oakland Raiders on December 6, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns and the rest of the NFL can rest easy. James Harrison is not a dirty player. That's the assessment of his coach. Mike Tomlin said Wednesday he is very "comfortable" in saying Harrison is not a dirty player, based on the five years he's coached Harrison. How, then, does Tomlin reconcile Harrison giving three Cleveland Browns players concussions in the last 14 months by using the top of his helmet as a weapon? "They're unfortunate plays," Tomlin said. "And I think the circumstances around those plays are well documented." To re-document those "unfortunate" plays, Harrison lowered his head and drove the top of his helmet into the helmet or jaw of a Browns player three times. It resulted in concussions for Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and Colt McCoy, and a fine of 75,000 (reduced to 50,000) and a one-game suspension for Harrison. Most unfortunate. "Sometimes," Tomlin said, "there are going to be some unfortunate collisions in the game of football, all of which are not going to be legal." Tomlin spoke on a conference call with the Cleveland media, and he was pressed about Harrison -- to the point a reference was made to Harrison being a "headhunter." "I haven't said that he is," Tomlin said. "Those are your words, not mine, my man." Did the league characterize Harrison as a headhunter by suspending him? "I know they said the hit was illegal, but I don't think he's been characterized in that manner," Tomlin said. Massaquoi has not really been the same since Harrison's hit on him last season, and McCoy has not been cleared to practice since he took the shot to the jaw on Dec. 8 well after he had thrown a pass. On that hit, Harrison went in high and clearly ducked his head as he drove the top of his helmet into McCoy's facemask. Harrison, though, said he thought what he did was a football play and he should not have been suspended. He also said the Browns should have been punished for allowing McCoy back on the field two plays after the hit. On Twitter, Harrison questioned the suspension, made jokes about not playing and critiqued other players for hits during games he watched while suspended. His Twitter feed evidently includes Harrison picking out a winning message from his followers, and his Christmas Day "winner of (the) day" read: "Christmas hits my wallet like @jharrison9292 hits qb's." The humor might not hit McCoy. But ask the Browns about Harrison and it's tough to find a negative statement. They say they do not fear him and are not intimidated by him, but they also are not outwardly upset that he knocked their quarterback out for three games with a hit that led to a suspension. "It's football," safety Mike Adams said. "What are you going to be mad for?" Only Alex Mack showed the slightest bit of emotion, if it was emotion. Mack had a seven-second pause to contemplate an answer when asked if Harrison was dirty. After that seven seconds of dead air, Mack said: "I mean he's getting fined." Defensive tackle Scott Paxson was with the Steelers off and on the previous four seasons. "(Harrison) was a good dude," Paxson said. "I actually thought he was kind of quiet. To me he did a lot of talking just through his playing. Got along with everyone on the team. I got along with him." Paxson said Harrison's unique ability leads to problems. "I think he has something that normal people don't have, so it's shocking to see that he can make hits like he does," Paxson said. "Not everyone has that power, that strength. And if they do they don't know how to put it on the field like he does. It's kind of unnatural. If everyone had it they would play like that. If I could hit someone like that, I would." Steelers receiver Mike Wallace agreed, saying Harrison is "a great teammate." "I don't think he's intentionally going after anybody's head," Wallace said. In some venues, what Harrison did to McCoy calls for retaliation from the Browns. But to hear the Browns, that's not appropriate either. "What do you want them to do, start a fight?" coach Pat Shurmur said. "What I want my guys to do is play fast and physical from the snap to the whistle." Doing something after the whistle hurts the team, Shurmur said, adding "I don't think we want that." "I don't think we should go about this game with personal vendettas," receiver Greg Little said. "The optimal goal is to win the game, not try to take a cheap shot on guys." Perhaps the Browns are hiding their emotions. Perhaps they have been instructed not to stir the pot. Or perhaps it's simply an understanding of guys within the fraternity that certain things can and will happen in football. "Like I said," Paxson said, "if I could hit like he does I would do it."
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