NEW YORK — One week after drawing heavy fines for illegal hits, James Harrison and Brandon Meriweather were praised by the NFL for clean play in Sunday's victories.
Ray Anderson, the league's executive vice president of football operations, told The Associated Press on Monday that Meriweather and Harrison "heeded our emphasis" on eliminating fouls and deserve to be lauded. So do others, Anderson said, after no flags were thrown for illegal hits to defenseless players in the 13 games.
Harrison was fined $75,000 and Meriweather $50,000 for hits to defenseless opponents last week, when the NFL announced it would begin suspending players for such tackles.
"We like to think we're off to a good start in terms of the new emphasis and the recognition that we are going to play aggressively but well within the rules," Anderson said. "It's a good start."
"Brandon Meriweather, specifically, last week we were appropriately calling him out and chastising him," he added. " Yesterday in the Patriots' game at San Diego, Meriweather made two very tenacious, effective and legal hits in similar situations. But you could see it, he lowered the target area, blasted the opponent with his shoulder. He adapted, showing it can be done. It is appropriate to praise him for the tough play."
Anderson also mentioned Harrison, who skipped one day of practice last week and said he contemplated retirement rather than change how he plays. But Harrison played cleanly in a win at Miami, particularly on a play in which a Dolphins running back was already being hit by another Steeler.
"There certainly was one play, on a hit on a running back, that James Harrison may have taken a shot at the running back going down, and Harrison let up," Anderson said. "I think he acknowledged he let up when had a chance to put his head and helmet in there. I applaud James for restraining himself."