The sack only became officially recognized in pro football in 1982, but the NFL announced today that holds on James Harrison is now also an official statistic. The decision was made following the regular season and, although it was only made public today, will be retroactive to the Divisional Playoff round.
The NFL’s Senior Vice President of Public Relations, Craig Aiello, broke the news in a press release this afternoon. The text of the release follows:
As the season wore on, it became clearer and clearer to offensive lineman and their coaches that the only way to stop Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison was to blatantly hold him. Steelers fans have been clamoring for the league to take action, and we have done so.
Starting with the Divisional playoff round, we will now begin tracking the number of times James Harrison is held without a flag being thrown, and this will be recorded in the league’s official records. We’re making this move because it’s the right thing to do, and we know the fans will appreciate that we have recognized their concerns.
After the briefing, Ailleo confirmed that they will work in conjunction with the Alias Sports Statistics Bureau to iron out any grey areas that might exist over what constitutes a hold, and what does not. He quickly added, “Really, we don’t expect much work on that front because the holds on James Harrison are always quite obvious.”
“We do want to make football a game for patsies…”
Given the highly charged nature of the issue in question, most NFL officials were reluctant to speak on the record. However, one senior league official in spite of his speaking anonymously makes some surprisingly frank revelations.
When asked about why the league had taken the extraordinary step of making this move in the middle of the season, the source responded in exasperation, “What choice did we have? Tory Polamalu is right, we do want to make football into a game for patsies, particularly when it comes to protecting the passer. We can’t say that publicly, but we just can’t have our fine feathered quarterbacks taking so many hits.”
He elaborated as to why the league was singling out Harrison, “You know, guys like him simply do not cooperate, they’re too aggressive by nature. We’d hoped it would blow over, but the AP really screwed us when they named James Harrison defensive player of the year. We had to do something.”
Controversy, but Not from Where You’d Expect
This move has not come without controversy, and from a surprising sources. The new statistic, dubbed “Harrison Holds” will only be kept cumulatively by offense. Offensive lineman will not be credited individually. San Diego’s Pro Bowl left tackle Neill McMarcus was furious when he learned the news.
“Man that’s bull [explicative]. Like any Norv Turner coached team, there’s a lot of finger pointing going on right now, and some of it is at me. But I mean come on, I didn’t just hold James Harrison, I clotheslined him and rode him down to the ground. Twice. I saved Philip Rivers at least two sacks. The least I deserve is some credit.”
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