Everyone today has an opinion on the NFL and the way the league operates. On Saturday, a player who has been dubbed “controversial” – former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick – will receive a second chance to return to the league with a tryout. The league has become stronger on their stances with domestic violence accusers and continued to look after the safety of players with fines on hits.
But the NFL will always be judged no matter the good or terrible mistakes they make. It’s a revolving door of two steps forward and one step back mentality in today’s society. Perhaps that’s just how the world we live in has become.
But no matter how one feels of the NFL, Friday was greeted with a universal decision handed down by the league. And the reality is, one cannot argue against the ruling.
The NFL finally got it universally right with the indefinite suspension of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett. Whether a fan of the franchise or not, the league’s ruling to shut down the potential Defensive Player of the Year’s season was more than justified following his actions Thursday night.
During the final 14 seconds of Thursday’s victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, Garrett’s horrendous act of violence fled through mobile screens, breaking the news within minutes of his actions. It was on a 3rd-and-29 play, with no hope for Pittsburgh to make a comeback when the defensive end tackled Mason Rudolph following a swing route.
Garrett did his job; he broke through the line, saw his target and engaged contact. The ball had been released, meaning the play from Rudolph’s side was over. Instead of letting go, Garrett continued to bring the second-year quarterback to the ground, leading to the implications that would follow.
The quarterback would retaliate, starting a skirmish on the ground with Garrett. Within seconds, the former Texas A&M would be holding Rudolph’s helmet in his hands rather than letting it fall to the ground. As Steelers’ players held Garrett back, Rudolph charged back in Garrett’s face, leading to the Browns’ star to swing the helmet as a weapon, landing a blow to the quarterback’s head.
Here's the full play. Myles Garrett hit Rudolph with his own helmet. Maurkice Pouncey (#53) threw punches and a kick. pic.twitter.com/kzJDd4Hj53
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 15, 2019
It would only take the strength of Steelers’ offensive guard David DeCastro pinning him to the ground to put end the altercation for the moment. By the time whistles blew, Garrett, Steelers’ offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey, and Browns’ defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi would all be disqualified for the game.
“What I did was foolish, and I shouldn’t allow myself to slip like that,” Garrett said. “That’s out of character, but a situation like that where it’s an emotional game, and I allowed myself to fall into those emotions with what happened.”
Because that’s going to make all ok, right Myles?
Rudolph did not hold back either following the 21-7 loss, calling Garrett’s actions “bush league.”
What’s next for Myles Garrett?
In 2006, former Tennessee Titans star Albert Haynesworth would receive a five-game suspension for purposely stomping on Andre Gurode’s exposed head. Earlier this season, Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict received a year-long suspension for delivering a hit on Colts’ tight end Jack Doyle with the crown of his helmet.
Both of those players have a history of violent charges in the NFL. Garrett’s hit, however, makes them look like misdemeanors. And yes, in the case of in front of a jury, they would be minor offenses.
For Garrett, he could be looking at legal ramifications for assault charges should Rudolph and his agent intend to proceed further.
“At that point, it’s bigger than football. It’s protection,” Pouncey said, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “He could have killed him. What if he’d hit in him the temple?”
A much-needed victory now overshadowed
The victory for Cleveland over Pittsburgh became the first for the franchise since 2014. It now has the Browns sitting with a 4-6 record and back in the swing of potential postseason play. Baker Mayfield flashed brilliance with Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry for the first time all season. The defense created three turnovers on their way to back-to-back wins.
But no one will care about any of that. It doesn’t matter. The final 14 seconds of Thursday’s action is all people will be discussing when mentioning either Cleveland or Pittsburgh this season.
“We had five seconds left in the game…the biggest win for this team in a long time…never beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same season since 1999, and now we have to talk about this,” Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters afterward.
For Garrett, his season comes to a close. With a chance to take home honors and potentially lead the charge for a second-half success, the third-year pro swung that door shut quicker than the helmet. For now, he’s lucky he hit the wrong spot of Rudolph’s head.
Statement from Myles Garrett: pic.twitter.com/txVA970CmW
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) November 15, 2019
The Steelers’ center made a point during his interview. What if he hit the temple? Could Rudolph have been killed on the field? Could he have gone blind from the severity of the hit? Instead, six games off the field sounds better than 60+plus years behind a cell.
“It’s inexcusable,” Mayfield told Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews during a postgame interview. “Rivalry or not, we can’t do that. … That’s endangering the other team. That’s inexcusable. … The reality is, he’s going to get suspended.”
Football is an emotional game, but did this cross the line?
Tension will fly in football, specifically in rivalries. Players always want to come out on top. The line, however, sits between aggression and anger — players need to be aggressive each snap. Anger could lead to worse ramifications.
Myles Garrett should not be allowed to play another snap this season
— Kyle Juszczyk (@JuiceCheck44) November 15, 2019
He’s done for the rest of the year
— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) November 15, 2019
That. Is. Insanity. Wow.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) November 15, 2019
That’s assault at the least… 6 months in jail on the street.. now add the weapon and that’s at least a year right?!
— James Harrison (@jharrison9292) November 15, 2019
When other players take to social media speaking of the same incident, the decision becomes unanimous. For some, people will argue Rudolph should receive a suspension or fine as well.
Rudolph’s action during the process makes him far from innocent. The struggle began on the ground as both players began to shove. Should ramifications come his way? Perhaps, but it’s a sliver of the whole pie that was thrown in the Browns’ face Thursday evening.
The road ahead for the Cleveland Browns
Pittsburgh could be without three key players in JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and Pouncey for three games or longer. Depending on the severity of rookie wideout Diontae Johnson, Rudolph’s (or perhaps Devlin Hodges should Rudolph miss time) arsenal could be thin. For Pittsburgh to even been a postseason team would have been a blessing in disguise. The same cannot be said for their opponents.
And just to clear, I'm told the NFL has decided will be no additional suspensions as a result of the fracas. So it's Myles Garrett (6-plus games), Maurkice Pouncey (3 games), Larry Ogunjobi (1 game) and no one else.
So Rudolph won't be suspended. https://t.co/b13pFqwCPZ
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) November 15, 2019
For the Browns, not only did they lose their best defender, they lost their leader in the trenches. With Garrett gone, Cleveland lost. They lost bigger than just a “bad look” to their name. They could be losing for the remainder of the season thanks to his actions as well.
The NFL continues to talk about player safety, hoping to better the league for the future health of those who play the game. Thursday’s altercation could have ended worse if not for an offensive lineman protecting his quarterback. Now, Garrett’s season could be a lesson for all players should they feel when they’re about to continue after the whistle.
“We’ll see how serious the NFL is about their players. … My man got hit in the head with a helmet,” Pouncey said.
Dear NFL, Check. Your move now, and be careful; you’d hate to see a checkmate.