Occasionally, NFL players’ enthusiasm spills over into outright aggression. Just think of the 2015 fight between Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman. Many fans also recall the 2010 punch-out between Andre Johnson and Cortland Finnegan. Yet one of the most dramatic fights in NFL history occurred last season between the Browns’ Myles Garrett and Steelers’ Mason Rudolph.
That fight ultimately cost Myles Garrett a season-ending suspension. Let’s look back at the incident, Garrett’s justification for his actions, and his recent comments about the situation.
A fight for the ages
The fight occurred in the final seconds of the Browns-Steelers game on November 14, 2019. Cleveland was up 21-7, and the game’s fate was all but secured. On a late play, Garrett broke through the Steelers’ line and sacked Rudolph. As the two men were tangled on the ground, Rudolph pulled at the defensive end’s helmet and possibly even tried to deliver a blow to Garrett.
Whatever his intentions, Rudolph’s actions only incited Garrett’s rage. After the two men had risen, Garrett seized Rudolph’s helmet and forcibly ripped it from his head. As Rudolph stepped toward him, Garrett then used the helmet to bludgeon Rudolph in the head. A scrum broke out as the benches cleared, with several Steelers and Browns players taking retaliatory actions.
Myles Garrett’s justification and Mason Rudolph’s reaction
The fight ultimately saw three players get ejected: Garrett, Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Garrett, of course, faced the stiffest penalty from the NFL: an indefinite suspension. He missed all of the remaining 2019 season and postseason.
Before that happened, however, Garrett attempted to appeal the NFL’s decision. At that time, he claimed that Rudolph had used a racial slur while the two were on the ground following Garrett’s sack. The league investigated Garrett’s attempt to justify his actions. But it ultimately failed to turn up any evidence of inappropriate language on Rudolph’s part.
Throughout the proceedings, Rudolph himself was adamant that he’d never directed any disparaging language toward Garrett. His lawyer even threatened to bring a lawsuit against Garrett for defamation of character. While it doesn’t seem likely that’ll happen at this point, the threat itself made clear just how offended Rudolph was at Garrett’s accusation.
Garrett extends an olive branch
The NFL reinstated Garrett in February 2020 — but only after the Browns’ defensive end sat down to discuss the incident with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Browns quickly issued a statement welcoming Garrett back to the organization. But this doesn’t mean they or anyone else in the league has forgotten the ugly incident.
Apparently, Garrett hasn’t forgotten either. He certainly knows that the fight will be a dark spot on his record for years to come and is eager to try and repair his image. To that end, Garrett recently opened up about the fight with a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, telling her that he would be happy to sit down and discuss the incident with Rudolph, “man-to-man,” according to Pro Football Talk.
Garrett admitted that he didn’t know how he’d go about arranging such a meeting, but stated for the record that he would “be willing to extend the olive branch.” It remains unclear, however, whether Rudolph would be willing to accept such an offer. He would probably need to believe that Garrett’s olive branch was truly extended in the spirit of peace—and not just as a way to improve his public image.
The Browns, on the other hand, have clearly accepted Garrett’s position as sincere. They even rewarded him this off-season with a massive contract extension worth $125 million over the next five years.