Harris upset with NFL's new emphasis

Chris Harris said asking him to change the way he hits is like asking a smoker to stop smoking overnight. AP Photo/Paul Abell

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears starting safety Chris Harris goes by the nickname "Hitman."

But for how much longer?

Harris was one of several Bears players to speak out Wednesday about the NFL fining and suspending players for dangerous and flagrant hits, particularly those involving helmets.

"I can't change the way I play the game," Harris said. "I've been doing this 10 years, six years in the league, college and my senior year in high school. I've been taught to play a certain way. That's like asking a guy who smokes for 10 years, hey, I need you to stop smoking tomorrow. Do you think he would be able to do it? No, it's tough. You can't just do this overnight. Change doesn't just happen overnight.

"Helmet to helmet is pretty much inevitable on a lot of tackles. It's just going to happen. I have to see what I'm hitting. My eyes are on my head. Therefore, my head might be the first thing to make contact because I need to see what I'm hitting, as opposed to ducking my head, I don't see what I'm hitting and I'm really at risk to get a spinal or neck injury. It's tough, it's very tough."

According to Harris, there is a certain assumed risk involved when a player decides to play in the NFL.

"It's a mini car wreck every time you hit a guy with as fast as these guys are going," Harris said. "Nobody is making us do it, we choose to do it. You know the ramifications, you know the risks you put yourself in every time you step out on the field. If you don't want to put yourself at risk, you should not be in this league or play this sport.

"That's the only way you're going to keep guys safe, it's to keep football away from guys, to make it illegal to play the game in the U.S. If it's so geared on player safety, the only way you're going to make it completely safe is to not play the game."

Harris said if the worst happens, he won't point a finger of blame.

"I know at any given moment, on any given hit, because of the way I like to hit, I could be injured on any given play," he said. "But that's my choice. If I get hurt, I can't blame anybody. I can't blame you, I can't blame the NFL, I won't go sue anybody because I made that decision to go out and play."

The veteran safety also panned the idea of adding two additional regular season games

"If you care about the health and welfare of the players, don't add two more games to the season," Harris said. "If you're getting so uptight about the way guys are hitting, why add two more games to put two more chances for guys to get in that position to get injured?

"You preach about wanting guys to be injury free or protect from injury, but yet you want to add two more games to put your lives on the line, to make more money. But that's not making anybody safer in my eyes."

Harris would like to see long-term, post-career disabilities treated with the same urgency as concussions.

"If I'm going to go out there and risk myself, and potentially have a life altering injury, yeah, I want to get compensated for it," Harris said. "But it's more than money, it's health care, it's all that. The injuries you're left with after playing this game are horrendous. I mean, some guys have to get full hip replacements. Hip replacements are $400,000, [some get] knee replacements, dementia, it's so beyond the surface. It's not just money, it goes beyond that."