Cleveland Browns safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. was involved in what might have been the most bizarre sequence during opening weekend of the NFL regular season.
Just five plays into Cleveland’s first defensive series, Harrison tackled Kansas City running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire along the sidelines in front of the Chiefs’ bench. Following the play, Harrison bumped into Kansas City center Creed Humphrey and got tangled up with Edwards-Helaire. That led Kansas City assistant coach Greg Lewis to shove Lewis, with Harrison retaliating by pushing Lewis.
#Browns Ronnie Harrison can’t do this. You just can’t. Ejection and fine is automatic. Even if a coach pushes you because he thinks you’re purposely stepping on his player (and I actually don’t think it was on purpose by Harrison) you can’t open-hand shove a coach in the face. pic.twitter.com/jeWzEu1kUo— Charles Robinson (@CharlesRobinson) September 12, 2021
Once the officials got done talking about it, they came to the conclusion that offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were in order and that Harrison should be ejected.
Somehow they decided that it was acceptable for Lewis to shove Harrison and the assistant coach was allowed to stay in the game.
When asked about it on Monday, Browns center JC Tretter, who is also president of the NFL Players Association, correctly pointed out that Harrison was in the wrong, but just as correctly questioned why it was acceptable for an assistant coach to shove a player (quotes via The Plain Dealer):
“Obviously Ronnie can’t retaliate. You can’t be the second one in those instances. You’re always going to get called for that. But we can’t have opposing coaches putting their hands on opposing players.
“We can’t have that. We’ve seen rules be changed. I think a few years ago we had an incident with the Bengals and Steelers I believe where now coaches aren’t allowed on the field during injuries because something like that happened and it ramped everybody up and we had a few nasty plays after that because of it. And then the NFL’s whole stance behind this change in the taunting rule was to avoid retaliation and avoid events that cause retaliation.
“So I would expect that the coach gets held to the same standard if not a higher standard than Ronnie, being the first one in there and being a coach, putting his hands on an opposing player, I don’t think there’s any room for that in this league.’’
Kansas City head coach Andy Reid naturally saw the incident differently, according to ESPN’s Jake Trotter:
“He was on the chest of our player. [Lewis] was trying to get him off, and he didn’t want to get off. [Lewis] kind of lifted him just a little bit and he got hit. [Lewis] was there to help get that fella who was leaning on our guy. That’s why there was a penalty, right? The officials fixed it, which I thought was important. You don’t do that on our sideline. You don’t do that to our guys, bottom line.”
Harrison obviously deserved a penalty, if for nothing else for being foolish enough to shove a coach right in front of an official. Whether or not it was deserving of an ejection is highly debatable, especially given that the same level of justice was not delivered to Lewis.
The NFL is supposedly reviewing the situation, according to The Associated Press, and while it appears that Harrison will not be suspended, he is likely facing a fine.
But it is unlikely that the league will come down on the Chiefs, and at this point, the damage has already been done as the Browns were forced to play the rest of the game with M.J. Stewart in place of Harrison.