I've watched the replay maybe 10 times now. Colt McCoy leaves the pocket, runs to his left, tucks the ball under his right arm, and a step or step-and-a-half before making contact with Harrison, pulls the ball out and quickly flips it to Montario Hardesty. Harrison hits McCoy helmet-to-helmet right in McCoy's facemask, and McCoy falls to the turf. Harrison gets flagged for roughing the passer.
Here's where the debate comes in, and why I believe it will be hard for the NFL to suspend Harrison: If McCoy was viewed as a runner -- which he surely would be while having the ball tucked under his arm, with no intention of throwing it -- then once he is out of the pocket, he is treated like a running back, not a quarterback. And a runner can be hit helmet-to-helmet without penalty.
But if a quarterback leaves the pocket with the intention still to pass, he loses some protection from the rules of being in the pocket. He can be hit low, and the one-step rule about hitting a quarterback after the release of the ball goes away.
After the game, Harrison told reporters: "From what I understand, once the quarterback leaves the pocket, he's considered a runner.''
Not exactly. If he leaves the pocket and looks to be intending to throw, he can't be hit helmet-to-helmet. If he leaves the pocket and appears to be a runner, he can be hit helmet-to-helmet.
It'll be a close call for discipline czars Ray Anderson and Merton Hanks to decide next week. And Harrison should have aimed lower anyway. But I don't know how they look at the replay and say McCoy isn't a runner when he has the ball tucked under his right arm. And is running.