Myles Garrett, helmet a ‘weapon,’ banned for rest of season
CLEVELAND (AP) — Myles Garrett is done playing for the Cleveland Browns this season. The NFL isn’t saying when the star defensive end will play again.
He was suspended for at least the rest of the regular season and postseason — if the Browns qualify. The league discipline Friday came hours after Garrett swung an opponent’s helmet and used it “as a weapon” by striking Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head.
The violent outburst in the final seconds of Thursday’s nationally televised game against the Steelers resulted in the longest suspension for a single on-field infraction in league history. Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games in 2006.
The league’s No. 1 overall pick in 2017 was also fined an undisclosed amount. Garrett must meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell before his reinstatement is considered.
Until then, the defensive end’s career is on hold.
After wrestling Rudolph to the ground as the Browns were closing out a rare win over their rivals, Garrett ripped off the quarterback’s helmet and clobbered him on top of the head, triggering a brawl that capped another physical game between the AFC North teams.
“I made a terrible mistake,” Garrett said in a statement Friday. “I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable. I know that we are all responsible for our actions and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward. I want to apologize to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organization, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake and I fully intend to do so.”
Rudolph, who suffered a concussion earlier this season, avoided serious injury and said after the game the attack was “cowardly and bush league.” That sentiment was shared across the league and sports world.
The NFL said Garrett “violated unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules, as well as fighting and removing an opponent’s helmet and using it as a weapon.”
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who was trying to separate Garrett and Rudolph, was suspended three games without pay and also fined for punching and kicking Garrett. Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game. He shoved Rudolph to the ground from behind during the melee.
The suspended players have three business days to appeal their penalties.
The Steelers and Browns were fined $250,000 each.
Browns coach Freddie Kitchens met with Garrett at the team’s training facility Friday and said the 23-year-old expressed more remorse.
“He understands that he let himself down, he let his teammates down and he let his organization down,” Kitchens said. “We look at our team as a family, and in a family, sometimes family members make mistakes. You support them in every way that you can, even if it is an egregious mistake. We know who Myles is as a person. We know who Myles is and the character that Myles has, and that is under no circumstance what he wants to be portrayed as. We will support him.”
There was a ripple effect to Garrett’s act, causing embarrassment to the league and both teams.
“There is no place for that in football and that is not reflective of the core values we strive for as an organization,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize to Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers.”
Added Steelers President Art Rooney II: “We must always maintain composure, no matter what happens. After a hard-fought game between two rivals, it is a shame the game ended that way.”
Rudolph’s agent, Tim Younger, said he’ll explore legal action against Garrett. Cleveland police say no police report or charges have been filed.
“There are many risks an NFL QB assumes with every snap taken on the field,” Younger wrote on Twitter. “Being hit on your uncovered head by a helmet being swung by a 275 lb DE is not one of them.”
The brawl overshadowed a big 21-7 win for a Cleveland franchise just a few years removed from a winless season. The Browns (4-6) have moved into the playoff race but will now be without their best defensive player. They are 2-0 in their division for the first time since league realignment alignment in 2002, the last time they made the playoffs.
This was not the only nasty hit in the 135th game between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Browns free safety Damarious Randall delivered a helmet-to-helmet shot on Steelers rookie receiver Diontae Johnson, who left with a concussion. Randall was ejected.
The Browns and Steelers play again in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1.
Although Garrett has been fined more than $50,000 this season, first for punching Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker and then for two late hits on New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian, this sort of attack was out of character for the self-proclaimed pacifist and poet.
Last month, Garrett didn’t retaliate after a fan wanting a photograph punched him in the face while stopped in traffic downtown.
The loss of Garrett is a devastating blow to Cleveland’s defense. He’s one of the league’s edge rushers and the Browns are already missing end Olivier Vernon, who missed his second game Thursday with a knee injury.
But beyond the football, the Browns have taken a shot to their image.
They have been one of the league’s most penalized teams under Kitchens, and the Garrett episode came just a few hours after the team released troubled wide receiver Antonio Callaway, who was suspended by the league for another violation of the substance abuse policy.
Further, the Browns recently released safety Jermaine Whitehead after he posted threatening messages on Twitter following a loss. And the Browns were criticized for signing running back Kareem Hunt, who was suspended for eight games this season for his actions off-field conduct while with Kansas City. In one case, he shoved and kicked a woman.
Kitchens wants his team to learn from what happened.
“We are always searching for ways to improve the way we are viewed as an organization, as a coach and as a player,” he said. “Especially in times like this, of course. Myles wears the Cleveland Brown jersey so we are all in it together.”