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Garrett’s appeal denied; Steelers, teammates deny
The figurative helmet-swinging in the Myles Garrett incident continued Thursday — on a whole new, uglier level.
In appealing his indefinite suspension from the NFL, the Cleveland Browns pass rusher has alleged that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph triggered Garrett’s helmet-swinging attack on him last Thursday night by demeaning him with a racial slur, according to an ESPN report Thursday.
Although Garrett did not level this accusation immediately following the Browns’ 21-7 defeat of the Steelers a week ago in his lengthy locker-room scrum with reporters, nor in his official statement of contrition the Browns issued a day later, ESPN is reporting the third-year Browns defensive end dropped his racial-slur bombshell Wednesday, during his appeal hearing with the NFL.
An appeals officer on Thursday upheld the league’s indefinite suspension without pay of Garrett, which will last at least through the 2019 season, including possible playoffs. At a minimum, then, Garrett will miss six games.
A source said the NFL investigated Garrett’s allegation but found no evidence.
Through the Steelers and his personal agent, Rudolph vehemently denies Garrett’s reported allegation.
The on-field incident that incited all this occurred with eight seconds left in Cleveland’s victory last Thursday. Garrett, one of the NFL’s top pass rushers, went way over the line when he kept trying to tackle Rudolph to the ground, seconds after the QB had thrown a dump-off pass. That action alone might have got him suspended.
Garrett indeed successfully drove Rudolph into the ground and even remained on top of him, like a wrestler driving an overwhelmed opponent into the mat.
Two Steelers offensive linemen — right guard David DeCastro and right tackle Matt Feiler — were in immediate proximity, as well as referee Clete Blakeman.
Rudolph understandably took instant physical exception to Garrett’s action, and this week apologized for grabbing Garrett’s helmet and facemask in his desperate attempt to physically push Garrett off him. By this point both Feiler and DeCastro were as close to the pinned Rudolph’s head as Garrett, as they tried to pry Garrett off Rudolph.
Over the next several seconds, Garrett grabbed Rudolph’s facemask. As both Garrett and Rudolph were pulled to their feet by Feiler and DeCastro, Garrett twist-ripped off Rudolph’s helmet then, shockingly, swung it down on top of Rudolph’s bare head with a crash. Blakeman was so close he made the group a fivesome.
The melee then grew. Additional players, one from each side, were also suspended last Friday for their actions.
Of course, reaction Thursday afternoon to Garrett’s reported accusation wobbled the NFL-related interwebs. It’s the latest black-eye moment for the league that, somehow, like others before it, has sunk deeper into the gutter.
Is there any truth to Garrett’s strangely delayed accusation?
NFL quarterbacks typically talk to reporters at a news conference once during the week. Rudolph did so Wednesday; he wasn’t made available Thursday.
On Wednesday Rudolph said: “I didn’t say anything that escalated it, but I have to do a better job of keeping my composure.”
Rudolph’s team, several teammates and his agent all stood by him following ESPN’s report.
Said Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten in a statement: “Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident … He will not discuss this accusation any further, and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
Rudolph’s agent, Timothy Younger, issued this statement: “This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the (appeal) hearing and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett. (It was a) desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension.
“The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity, which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful.”
Said Steelers captain Cameron Heyward: “I don’t think it was actually said … For that to be part of (Garrett’s) appeal is stupid to me, because that doesn’t get you out from what you did.”
Heyward said he spoke earlier Thursday with Rudolph and “he was pretty distraught in saying, ‘I did not say that.’”
Feiler, a material witness, told reporters Thursday he did not hear Rudolph say anything to Garrett and suggested the QB would never say such a thing as Garrett alleges.
“He’s not that kind of guy,” Feiler said.
What’s more, numerous Browns players on Thursday — including defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and QB Baker Mayfield — told reporters the first they heard of Garrett’s allegation was right then and there, as reporters asked them about it.
Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr., per ESPN, told reporters he hadn’t heard of the allegation, but believes Garrett.
“I just don’t see Myles as someone who would lie or do anything like that,” Beckham said.
But wouldn’t Garrett have shared such a horrendous occurrence with teammates? Or at least with team officials, as they questioned him about the incident before they crafted an official club response last Friday? Perhaps not.
When asked about Garrett’s allegation, Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters Thursday that whatever discussions about the matter he and Garrett have had will remain private. Kitchens would not comment further on last Thursday’s incident nor on the allegation.
The NFL did not immediately say whether it is investigating Garrett’s allegation, but you can bet it will.
The league’s indefinite suspension without pay of Garrett was upheld Thursday by appeals officer James Thrash, jointly appointed per NFL/NFLPA procedure by both parties.
Another jointly appointed appeals officer, Derrick Brooks, reduced the suspension of Pittsburgh centre Maurkice Pouncey — who’d rushed in after Garrett’s helmet-swinging action to punch and kick Garrett — from three games to two.
Cleveland’s Larry Ogunjobi did not appeal his one-game suspension for ploughing into and levelling a defenceless Rudolph, moments after he got cracked on the skull by his own helmet courtesy of Garrett. The league rescinded his fine on Monday.
Because he’s now suspended until some time in 2020, Garrett won’t be having any official contact with reporters through the Browns. Because his suspension is open-ended (that is, indefinite) the league will be listening.
Will Garrett double-down on his harsh allegation against Rudolph in the hours, days, weeks and months ahead? We’ll see.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019