PITTSBURGH — Steelers linebacker James Harrison has carved out a niche as one of the NFL's most feared defenders by straddling the line between clean and dirty play. On Tuesday the league did more than fine him for it.
The NFL suspended Harrison for a game for his helmet-to-facemask hit Thursday on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. Harrison is the first player to miss game time under the league's revamped policy on such collisions. His agent, Bill Parise, said Tuesday that Harrison has filed an appeal and expects it to be heard this week.
NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said the violation was Harrison's fifth illegal hit on a quarterback in three seasons. The four-time Pro Bowl pick has been fined two other times.
Harrison, who has criticized the NFL's crackdown on vicious hits, thanked fans for their support on Twitter, adding, "I'm just going to move on from here and get ready for my next game."
The Steelers face the 49ers on Monday night in San Francisco.
Also, medical representatives from the league and union met with the Browns' medical staff to discus the response and treatment of McCoy. Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFLPA's executive committee, supports having independent neurologists at games to spot concussions.
Dolphins stunned by firing
DAVIE — A number of key Dolphin players expressed surprise that coach Tony Sparano was fired with three games remaining in the season.
Chad Henne, Will Allen and other players spoke while taking part in the annual Fins for Kids Holiday Toy Event at training camp.
Sparano was told he was being let go on Monday.
"It's like losing a family member," defensive back Allen said.
In almost four years, Sparano went 29-32. This season Miami is 4-9 and out of the playoff hunt after an 0-7 start.
"It's a shame he had to go out that way," said Henne, who is injured. "… I wish I could have him for another year as my head coach because I respect the hell out of him."
COWBOYS: Running back DeMarco Murray (broken right ankle) and safety Barry Church (shoulder) were placed on season-ending injured reserve. The team signed veterans Sammy Morris and Mana Silva as replacements.
PANTHERS: The team signed rookie kicker Adi Kunalic to a three-year contract but also kept veteran Olindo Mare.
TITANS: Ex-Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud, who missed four of the past five games with a groin injury, went on IR. The team signed linebacker Kevin Malast off the Jaguars' practice squad.