Myles Garrett fight overshadows rivalry victory for Cleveland Browns, leads to indefinite suspension

By Pershelle Rohrer

December 1, 2019

Pershelle Rohrer is a first-year BGSU student from Logan, Utah. She is a Sport Management major with a minor in Journalism. Her primary sports interests are football, basketball, and baseball, both at the professional and collegiate levels.

The Cleveland Browns defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 21-7 in the week 11 Thursday Night Football matchup on November 14. Baker Mayfield threw for two touchdowns and rushed for one in the victory, giving the Browns a record of 4-6 and putting them back in the playoff race. Cleveland’s win over Pittsburgh (5-5) should have been something to celebrate, as it was just their fourth win over their division rival in the past ten years (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019). However, a fight that broke out in the last eight seconds of the game overshadowed anything positive that happened in the Browns’ second straight win.

On the second to last snap of the game, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett brought down Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph well after Rudolph had completed a pass. Rudolph attempted to remove Garrett’s helmet, kicking him while they were still on the ground. Garrett then tore off Rudolph’s helmet and hit him on the top of the head with it when Rudolph followed him to retrieve it, causing the benches to clear. Garrett was ejected along with teammate Larry Ogunjobi, who shoved Rudolph to the ground just after the helmet incident, and Maurkice Pouncey, who then punched and kicked Garrett in retaliation. 

The NFL issued suspensions to all three ejected players. Garrett was suspended indefinitely with a minimum ban for the remainder of the season, Pouncey was given a three-game ban, and Ogunjobi sat out one week. All three players appealed their suspensions, and Pouncey’s was reduced to two games as a result, according to ESPN (“Myles Garrett’s indefinite,” 2019). Rudolph received a $50,000 fine for his actions, and both teams were fined $250,000 each.

Garrett was immediately criticized by the media, fans, and players alike. Troy Aikman, current Fox commentator and former NFL player, called Garrett’s actions “barbaric” (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019, para. 11). Reggie Bush (2019) tweeted that it “might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field!”

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield said the incident would become “a soap opera on the outside much like the media has portrayed us to be for the whole season” (“Browns, Steelers brawl,” 2019, para. 13). The Browns have faced growing pains with a revamped roster in their first season under head coach Freddie Kitchens. The win against the Steelers was their second straight, but losing Garrett for the season could potentially hurt the Browns’ playoff chances as the defense has to make up for the loss of their star defender. 

Following the game, the media took turns speculating about the length of Garrett’s suspension. Many reporters and players called for a season-long ban, some suggesting that the suspension should go into the 2020 season as well. 

Prior to Garrett’s penalty, the longest suspension for a single on-field action was five games, awarded to Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth in 2006 for ripping Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode’s helmet off and stomping on his face (Trotter & Pryor, 2019). 

Garrett’s indefinite suspension makes a statement to the rest of the NFL, especially since Rudolph recently came off a concussion after a helmet-to-helmet hit by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas in week 5 that knocked the quarterback unconscious (Seifert, 2019).

Garrett will have to meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell before his reinstatement (Trotter & Pryor, 2019). By holding out one of the league’s stars for the rest of the season and potentially part of the next, the NFL is showing its decreased tolerance for fighting and the need to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.

The media calling for the lengthy suspension of Myles Garrett put pressure on the NFL to act. By issuing the longest suspension for a single on-field act in league history and later upholding the indefinite ban, the NFL demonstrates its power to discipline players for unsportsmanlike conduct, which it hopes to reduce in the future.

The Browns and Steelers met again on December 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

References

Browns, Steelers brawl at end of Cleveland’s 21-7 win. (2019, November 14). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/recap?gameId=401128044

JForsett. (2019, November 15). I wouldn’t be surprised if Garrett misses the rest of this season and half of next. It’s an ugly situation, Mason could have suffered a life altering injury. Football is an emotional sport but that was something different. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/jforsett/status/1195215451657318400?s=21

JuiceCheck44. (2019, November 14). Myles Garrett should not be allowed to play another snap this season [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/juicecheck44/status/1195202767494598656?s=21

LRiddickESPN. (2019, November 14). Suspend him for the rest of the season. [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/lriddickespn/status/1195200614382346241?s=21

Myles Garrett’s indefinite ban upheld; Maurkice Pouncey now suspended 2 games. (2019, November 21). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28131395/myles-garrett-indefinite-ban-upheld-maurkice-pouncey-now-suspended-2-games

Pryor, B. (2019, November 23). NFL fines Steelers QB Mason Rudolph $50,000 for role in fight. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28146654/nfl-fines-steelers-qb-mason-rudolph-50000-role-fight

ReggieBush. (2019, November 14). In all my life of football that might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field! They about to suspend Myles Garrett for 30 years! People getting stomped out, that was a hood fight! Hate to see that in our game that’s not what pro football is about! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/reggiebush/status/1195202558643490816?s=21

Seifert, K. (2019, November 15). Myles Garrett suspension for Steelers-Browns fight: Why he deserves record punishment for helmet swing. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28083617/myles-garrett-suspension-steelers-browns-fight-why-deserves-record-punishment-helmet-swing

Trotter, J., & Pryor, B. (2019, November 15). Browns’ Myles Garrett suspended indefinitely; Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey gets 3-game ban. ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28087446/browns-myles-garrett-suspended-indefinitely-steelers-maurkice-pouncey-gets-3-game-ban

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