Since Thursday night of last week, the NFL news cycle has been dominated by Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, one of the league’s premier players who is suspended indefinitely for one of the more violent acts in NFL history when he struck Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with a helmet.
Garrett lost his appeal, but a new report adds intrigue to an already gripping situation. During his appeal hearing, Garrett reportedly alleged that Rudolph called him a racial slur, which led to Garrett using the helmet as a weapon. Rudolph is, of course, innocent until proven guilty, but if he did use a derogatory term, everything changes for him and Garrett.
To get this out of the way, Garrett deserves to be punished. It doesn’t matter what Rudolph did or said to provoke him. Rudolph could have been seriously hurt. That said, Rudolph was also in the wrong.
Garrett’s hit on the QB on that play was neither dirty nor late, yet Rudolph attempted to rip Garrett’s helmet off, then proceeded to kick him in the groin region while Garrett was being pulled away. Garrett wrapped Rudolph up and pulled him to the ground, which is what defenders are taught to do. When Garrett initially made contact with Rudolph, the ball was still in the QB’s hands.
Rudolph had no reason to instigate an encounter by ripping off Garrett’s helmet. What ensued is also unacceptable. Garrett stood up and was being restrained by Pittsburgh linemen David DeCastro and Matt Feiler, when Rudolph began to kick Garrett. This could have just been an attempt to get Garrett off of him, but Rudolph continued even after Garrett was upright. This led to Garrett grabbing Rudolph’s helmet and pulling it off as Rudolph fell to the ground again. Garrett was walking away with DeCastro and Feiler when Rudolph charged Garrett, who retaliated by striking Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.
Why Rudolph wasn’t suspended for instigating and escalating the situation is anyone’s guess, but that’s a topic for another day. Garrett deserves to be suspended, and while eating into his offseason and possibly the 2020 season is rather harsh, the NFL wanted to make a statement with their punishment here.
Then, this happened.
In an appeal with the NFL, Browns’ DE Myles Garrett alleged that Mason Rudolph called him a racial slur prior to last week's brawl on Thursday Night Football, sources told ESPN's Josina Anderson and me, an accusation the Steelers’ QB strongly denies.https://t.co/NUQfAJdo6B
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 21, 2019
If Rudolph did indeed say something to Garrett, things change. It doesn’t exonerate Garrett, nor should it affect his suspension (which, turns out, it did not). But it should affect Rudolph’s punishment, his future in the NFL, and how fans view both players. Browns fans know better than anyone how good of a reputation Garrett had before last Thursday. He is a mild-mannered player, who prior to this season, rarely showed any emotion on the field. He chose to attend Texas A&M over more prestigious football schools because of its paleontology program. Garrett loves dinosaurs and plans on becoming a paleontologist after he’s done playing football.
He spends his free time writing poetry, playing video games, and watching anime. Over the summer, he organized a puppy play-date for the Cleveland community and their dogs. Last month, Garrett was sitting in traffic when a “fan” asked him to roll down his window so he could take a picture, and the “fan” promptly punched Garrett in the face and ran away. Garrett didn’t retaliate.
These are only a few reasons why fans were so stunned to see Garrett lash out like he did. It was completely out of character, and even though Mason Rudolph’s actions surely angered Garrett, they didn’t seem enough to warrant his response. Being called a racial slur would be enough to do it. Again, if this happened, it doesn’t excuse Garrett’s actions, but it makes them more understandable, and less “insane,” as the league described them shortly after the game.
Even though Garrett’s appeal was denied, this story is far from over.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league looked into Myles Garrett’s allegations that Mason Rudolph used a racial slur last Thursday night before the brawl “and found no such evidence.”
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 21, 2019
As of now, Mason Rudolph is innocent, and Garrett, if he did lie about this, deserves to be ridiculed. But it’s fair to wonder if the NFL is being completely honest here. They certainly have an interest in protecting the image of their league, and releasing (or at least admitting) audio of one of its QBs using a racial slur would do a significant amount of damage to that image. We still don’t know which players were mic’d up, if any. We don’t have access to any audio recordings from any of the microphones on the sideline. And we don’t know why Rudolph’s camp would release a prepared statement on the matter before (or right when) the allegations leaked.
We may not know any of these things unless something is found (or purchased…) by TMZ or another similar outlet. But for now, Garrett’s attempt to smear Rudolph in order to get his suspension reduced reflects very poorly on him as a person, if he is lying.
In a season filled with crazy storylines, this may just be the biggest. Myles Garrett will not play for the rest of this season, but it’s unlikely we’ve heard the last of this situation for the time being. The Browns have been in the spotlight all season, mostly for the wrong reasons, and this is no different.
We’ll just have to wait and see if any new information comes out regarding what Mason Rudolph said or didn’t say. For now, everyone will have to decide for themselves. Do you believe Garrett? Can the NFL be trusted when they say they looked into things?
Whether Garrett is lying or telling the truth, once the truth does come out, this situation will change completely.