Steelers linebacker James Harrison plays the game with a mean streak.
He once body-slammed a fan who ran onto the field in Cleveland, and he rudely bumped into Tom Brady last year after Brady taunted Steelers safety Anthony Smith.
Harrison's demeanor is a big reason why he's still an NFL player and a good one at that despite his being undersized and spending his first two years on practice squads after going undrafted.
It's also why he's reportedly out a whopping $20,000 after criticizing the officials following the Steelers' 26-21 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday night. The NFL has warned players and coaches not to criticize the officials, but in this instance the amount of the fine is unwarranted.
The Steelers and the NFL benefit from Harrison's emotional playing state, and now the NFL is fining him $20,000 for the same thing.
Harrison was wrongly penalized for a late hit on Jaguars quarterback David Garrard on Sunday, and he also made a textbook follow-through on his hit, pulling his arms away from Garrard as they fell to the turf.
The Steelers were behind at the time, and the play gave the Jaguars a first down that could have been a deciding factor in the game had the Jags held on for the win.
Afterward, Harrison, a normally quiet guy in the locker room who's just now starting to feel comfortable around the media after six years in the league, was asked about the play with microphones and recorders in his face. Being Joey Porter's understudy for a few years must have rubbed off on him.
"It was the most unbelievable penalty I've ever seen in my life,'' Harrison began. But he didn't know when to stop and eventually said, "You don't make a call like that, unless [referee Ron Winter] might have money on it.''
No doubt, Harrison should be fined, but $20,000? That may not seem like such a big deal to an NFL player, but Harrison is not one of the more highly-paid players. He makes in the neighborhood of $1.5 million per year, which is low for a Pro Bowl outside linebacker.
In contrast, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was fined just $5,000 more than Harrison recently for criticizing officials for a call that didn't even happen in a Cowboys game.
Harrison will feel the effects of his fine much more than Jones, and his came during an emotional moment on a play where he himself was wrongly penalized. Jones' criticism was more calculated.
The NFL is trying its best to crack down on blasting officials, but it needs to do a better job of making the penalty fit the crime.
NFL Week No. 6
Game of the week: New England at San Diego, 8:15 p.m. Sunday
Upset special: Jacksonville (+3) at Denver
Fantasy tip: Arizona RB Tim Hightower has been mainly used in short-yardage situations but should start getting more carries as the season unfolds.
Buck Frank can be reached at 946-7461 or firstname.lastname@example.org.