Browns Defensive End Unleashes Brutal Attack On Pittsburgh Quarterback

Instead of the fact that the surprisingly stronger than usual Cleveland Browns managed to pull off a win against their divisional rivals in Pittsburgh, last night’s Thursday night football will be remembered for another reason thanks to shocking behavior on the part of Myles Garrett, a Defensive End for the Browns, unleashed a brutal attack on Pittsburgh Quarterback Mason Rudolph:

There were just a few seconds left in the Browns’ 21-7 win Thursday over the Steelers when everything that had happened up to that point became a mere footnote. A fight broke out, during which Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off the helmet of Pittsburgh’s Mason Rudolph and slammed it against the quarterback’s head.

It was a stunning scene, one that left more than a few longtime observers of the NFL saying they’d never witnessed anything like it. Among those expressing shock were a number of current and former players from the league, including 49ers fullback Kyle Jusczcyk, who tweeted that Garrett “should not be allowed to play another snap this season.”

That was a widely shared sentiment, in the wake of an episode that immediately became the talk of the NFL, both online and on postgame shows.

“It’s safe to say we’ve all probably lost our cool on the field and had some fights on the field,” NFL Network analyst and former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin said, “but in a league where you’re trying to mitigate and watch injuries, especially head injuries, where you suspend guys for hitting helmet-to-helmet, I don’t see how you’re gonna let Myles Garrett play any more football this year.”

Fellow NFL Network analyst and former wide receiver Steve Smith agreed, telling viewers after the game that Garrett had “lost the privilege of playing football for the remainder of the year.”

Even Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield acknowledged that Garrett would “get suspended” for his act. Speaking on the field just after the contest ended, Mayfield repeatedly told Fox Sports that what his teammate did was “inexcusable” and added, “I don’t care, rivalry or not, we can’t do that. … That’s just endangering the other team.”

Telling reporters at a postgame news conference, “I’ve never seen that in my life,” Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens said, “I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good.

“He understands what he did. He understands it’s totally unacceptable.”

Here’s the video of the attack itself, and the video of the full altercation between the two teams:

Not surprisingly, many NFL players expressed shock at Garrett’s behavior. Washington Post sportswriter Adam Kilgore meanwhile, correctly points out that while football can be a violent sport, Garrett obviously went too far:

On every snap of every NFL game, players risk their careers and well-being. The game by its very nature shreds ligaments and snaps bones and damages brains, sometimes with alacrity and sometimes imperceptibly. Lives change every Sunday because of what the sport does to those who play it. NFL football at its core is human achievement at the cost of human suffering.

The inherent violence of football is what made the calculated violence of Myles Garrett on Thursday night such a shocking affront. The game is built on sanctioned brutality, but within those parameters lies an agreement between players. They may destroy each other, but not on purpose and not outside the mayhem that happens during plays. It is a gladiatorial contract that should make you wince, but it is the understood agreement participants enter with full understanding.

When Garrett ripped off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and swung it at him in the dying seconds of Cleveland’s victory, he committed an egregious act that will follow him for the rest of his career and violated the unspoken players’ pact that a sport of such relentless violence relies on. Garrett’s assault should not be excused on any basis, such as Rudolph’s provocations or how a good man momentarily snapped. It should especially not be excused on the premise that it was just more violence heaped onto a violent sport.

(…)

The league will clearly see the severity of Garrett’s attack. He should, and almost certainly will, be suspended for the remainder of the season. The only debate is how much of next season he should miss. The NFL suspended repeat offender Vontaze Burfict a dozen games for a head-to-head hit this year. Garrett has been flagged for typical offenses such as late hits and personal fouls, but he is not in the same universe as Burfict as a recidivist. Still, his punishment could meet or surpass Burfict’s. It would be justified.

There is room for sympathy for Garrett. He will be defined by his actions Thursday night, for losing sight of the line between his sport’s violence and the madness that lies not far beyond. He would not have been a prime candidate to commit one of the most notorious moments in NFL history. Defensive end Chris Long created a charity called Waterboys that builds clear-water wells in areas of need in Africa. When he retired, Long picked an active player to become the face of his efforts. The man he chose was Garrett. He seems like a good man. In the mind of the American public, he became a monster Thursday night.

There really isn’t much more that can be said about what happened beyond this. Clearly, the fact that tensions were high because this was a game between division rivals or the suggestion that some have made that there may have been words exchanged between players over the course of the game last night is irrelevant. Indeed, there really isn’t anything that justifies what happened last night. The NFL has yet to speak publicly and officially about the matter, but it is likely we’ll hear something before the end of the day, and it’s likely to be bad news for Garrett. As it stands, Garrett is lucky that his hit on Rudolph came with the open end of the helmet. Had he struck him over the head with the top of the helmet, he could have done serious injury to him.

As far as punishment goes, the minimum ought to be a suspension for the remainder of the season and a hefty fine. Given that this happened on the field during the course of a game, though, could mean something far more substantial that includes suspension for the opening part of the 2020 season. Hopefully, the league won’t shrink away from what needs to be done here.

Update: Subsequent to the publication of this post, the NFL issued a ruling that indefinitely suspends Garrett and requires him to apply for reinstatement next year:

Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns was suspended for at least the rest of the season on Friday for pulling off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hitting him in the head with it.

The suspension is the longest for any player for a single on-field incident, and the N.F.L. said in a tweet on Friday that Garrett would need to meet with league officials to be reinstated next season.

Two other players, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, were also suspended, and the Browns and Steelers were fined $250,000 each. The league said other players, including those who left the bench to join the skirmish, would face discipline as a review of the situation continued.

The owners of the Browns, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, said they were disappointed about the fight and understood the punishments.

“There is no place for that in football and that is not reflective of the core values we strive for as an organization,” the Haslams said. “We sincerely apologize to Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Myles Garrett has been a good teammate and member of our organization and community for the last three years but his actions last night were completely unacceptable.”

This seems entirely appropriate. Indeed, it may be appropriate that Garett never be allowed to play in the league again.

FILED UNDER: Sports
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Headline typo – Quarterback.

    One action can define a man, no matter his true character. Eg. Bill Buckner. This will define Garrett.

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  2. Mister Bluster says:

    I was bemused by the commentators when one of them seemed to question if the TV audience should be watching the clip again and again as it was shown at least 3 or 4 times.

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  3. @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Stupid typo. Clearly I need more caffeine

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  4. SKI says:

    What Garrett did was inexcusable. He has been suspended through the end of the season and perhaps beyond. Good.

    That said, and without in any way excusing what Garrett did, Rudolph definitely instigated the situation by (a) trying to rip off Garrett’s helmet first and (b) coming at Garret while he was holding Rudolph’s helmet, being held back by two offensive linemen and backpedaling. Rudolph wasn’t suspended in the first wave but hopefully he will face discipline for his role as well.

    Oh, and before everyone totally freaks out with their adjectives and adverbs, this isn’t the first time this exact thing has happened in the NFL. Happened in a Lions game a few years ago. I think that resulted in a 2-3 game suspension (they swung but missed in that one and it wasn’t a primetime national game).

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  5. Teve says:

    $20 says Trump talks shit about Garrett before the weekend is over.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I’d heard there was a fight in Pittsburgh and that a football game broke out.

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  7. As I note in an update, Garrett has been indefinitely suspended and will have to apply for reinstatement next year before he would be allowed to play.

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  8. reid says:

    @SKI: I don’t watch much football anymore, so I just saw it. Yeah, I found it interesting that more blame wasn’t put on Rudolph. I’m not excusing Garrett’s swing, of course, but he wasn’t solely to blame there. Rudolph lost his temper and had two of his guys already handling the situation.

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  9. DrDaveT says:

    He should, and almost certainly will, be suspended for the remainder of the season. The only debate is how much of next season he should miss.

    He should, and almost certainly won’t, be charged and tried for assault and battery.

    I find it telling that this obvious response to a felonious assault didn’t even occur to any of the commenters quoted above, just because it happened on the field during the game instead of in the parking lot afterward. We’ve seen the same in hockey, when dead-puck attacks with a stick that would get you locked up anywhere else are treated administratively within the NHL.

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  10. Teve says:

    @DrDaveT: If your open heart surgery happened in the hospital parking lot it would be A DIFFERENT MATTER. 😛

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  11. Hal_10000 says:

    Not surprised. The Browns have had terrible discipline problems all year.

    People are saying this will wreck his career. Maybe. But I seem to remember the same being said about Rey Lewis, too.

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  12. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    That said, and without in any way excusing what Garrett did, Rudolph definitely instigated the situation by (a) trying to rip off Garrett’s helmet first and (b) coming at Garret while he was holding Rudolph’s helmet, being held back by two offensive linemen and backpedaling. Rudolph wasn’t suspended in the first wave but hopefully he will face discipline for his role as well.

    That’s what I thought as well.

    BTW, there’s a famous clip much played in highlight reels from NFL films, that shows Jack Lambert, coincidentally of the Steelers, slamming an opposing player to the ground, after the latter mockingly congratulated Pittsburgh’s kicker for missing a field goal.

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  13. SKI says:

    @DrDaveT:
    Not a shot that would happen to anyone (excepting racially biased prosecutions, etc.). Rudolph lunges at him, he swings back. It is completely wrong but it isn’t a crime.

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  14. SKI says:

    @Kathy: I think there is also a clip of Lyle Alzedo ripping someone’s helmet off. Not sure he even got flagged. Different game/world today.

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  15. SKI says:

    Indeed, it may be appropriate that Garett never be allowed to play in the league again.

    Ooh, hot take!

    He will be back for Game 1 next year.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    My word, a player could get a concussion from that sort of thing.

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  17. reid says:

    @SKI: A violent game + tons of steroids is not a happy combo. I did like watching football in that era, though.

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  18. mattbernius says:

    @Hal_10000:

    People are saying this will wreck his career. Maybe. But I seem to remember the same being said about Rey Lewis, too.

    To that point, let’s not forget that Michael Irvin, quoted in the first article Doug grabbed, apparently almost killed another teammate (though it happened off the field).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Irvin#1998_Scissor_Gate

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  19. Bill says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    One action can define a man, no matter his true character. Eg. Bill Buckner. This will define Garrett.

    Wrong analogy. How about Kermit Washington and what he did to Rudy Tomjanovich or Juan Marichal and Johnny Roseboro or Lenny Randle and Frank Lucchesi.

    Plus Woody Hayes punching a Clemson player at the 1978 Gator Bowl and the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident.

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  20. DrDaveT says:

    @SKI:

    Rudolph lunges at him, he swings back.

    With a helmet. To the head. I was under the impression that weapons and targets matter, at least in ordinary off-the-field stuff. (And are you asserting a self-defense defense??)

    Maybe the question I ought to be asking is “At what point would criminal charges be on the table? What about the situation would have to be different?”

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  21. reid says:

    @Bill: I watched that Tomjanovich punch live. It was brutal.

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  22. de stijl says:

    Why aren’t criminal assaults during games treated as crimes?

    I moved over to college hockey decades ago because NHL fight night shenanigans were so ludicrous. Apparently it’s better now. I watch the Gophers and UMD Bulldogs now. Elite college hockey is a better game to watch even though it’s a step down.

    That behavior would get you arrested anywhere else. Why not there?

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  23. Stormy Dragon says:

    Relevant:

    Albert Haynesworth – Stomping Incident

    While Myles Garrett should never play again, it’s going to be hard to argue that what he did is worse than what Albert Haynesworth did to Andre Gurode if either Garrett or the NFL Players Association decides to appeal the punishment.

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  24. Matt says:

    @SKI: I don’t really watch sports but that tackle of the quarterback was excessive. The ball was clearly out of the quarterbacks hands well before Garret latched on. Garret’s team mate number 53 who arrived at nearly the same time didn’t even bother with tackling because he knew it was not needed (excessive). 71 clearly agreed as his hands went up like WTF MATE?? To pretend that it was purely the quarterback’s fault is to ignore reality… Garret was being an outright asshole well before the helmet stuff started. This seems to be a pattern with him AND the browns…

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  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Hal_10000: Richie Incognito. ‘Nuff said.

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  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I was under the impression that weapons and targets matter, at least in ordinary off-the-field stuff.

    You have noticed that they are supplied with weapons, and targets, on the field? That the whole aim of their professional careers is to “put a hit on someone”?

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  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @de stijl:

    That behavior would get you arrested anywhere else. Why not there?

    Because that is what they are payed to do.

    ETA: in other words, if they prosecute the player, they have to prosecute the owner. Who here, thinks Jerry Jones is going to prison?

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  28. SKI says:

    @Matt:

    I don’t really watch sports

    Ya should have stopped there.

    Garrett’s take down of Rudolph, while definitely a bit late was positively gentle in the context of actual QB hits.

    Garrett shouldn’t have ripped off his helmet or used it to hit him (fortunately with the interior, not the crown so there wasn’t any actual harm to Rudolph) but it wasn’t criminal and it wasn’t unheard of (just very rare). He was appropriately suspended with the longest suspension for on-field violence ever in point of fact.

    That said, Rudolph was very much actively involved in the encounter. He wasn’t a passive victim.

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  29. de stijl says:

    Marty McSorley and (fka) Ron Artest (aka Metta World Peace) were indeed charged with assault.

    Albeit, Artest against fans in the stands, whereas McSorley for on-ice behavior.

    Had it happened in the parking lot, Garrett would have been arrested.

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  30. de stijl says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Jerry Jones deserves 3 hots and a cot.

    Probably uncalled for.

    Old time Vikings fan still triggered by the name Drew Pearson since 1975 – not a neutral observer.

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  31. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SKI: Nah. The league will need to send a message, so they’ll decline to meet with him until week 2 and then say okay, go back to your team.

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Because that is what they are payed to do.

    No. What they are paid to do happens between the whistles, in the course of the game. It is understandable that different criteria apply while the game is being played.

    Once the whistle blows, the game is no longer being played. The people on the field are just people, and the normal rules of public conduct should apply.

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  33. Matt says:

    @SKI:

    Ya should have stopped there.

    Just because I don’t watch sports very often anymore doesn’t mean I didn’t play it as a youth or understand the concept at all.

    Garrett’s take down of Rudolph, while definitely a bit late was positively gentle in the context of actual QB hits.

    I said absolutely nothing about the hit or if other hits are harder. I was commenting on the behaviour of Garret’s “tackle” he was excessive in all ways with it. He didn’t need to latch on to drag the dude down well after the ball was gone and then refuse to let the dude up while talking shit. Rudolph’s response was stupid and he should of walked away but understandable considering the tempers. Garret was wrong from the moment after first contact.

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  34. Tim says:

    @SKI: Myles wrapped up mason and wierdly drove him to the ground with his body weight very late. That is what started it. A giant man drove him to the turf late and wouldn’t get off of him. Rudolph was trying to get Myles off of him. Then Myles went full retard. That’s how I saw it. And I think it’s disgusting that I’m seeing browns fans everywhere standing up for Myles. This team has made you look bad for 30 years and now you are going to get behind this guy performing these crazy actions. I feel bad for your children

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  35. Tyrell says:

    @DrDaveT: In the NHL fighting will get you a five minute rest break. Boarding, which can be more dangerous, sometimes is not called. Hitting with a stick might get draw a few games.

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