CLEVELAND, OH – Myles Garrett swung a helmet. The NFL will soon swing back.
The Browns star could be facing an unprecedented league suspension for his violent outburst Thursday night, when he ripped off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and clubbed him on the head during the final seconds of Cleveland’s 21-7 win.
Garrett’s startling actions on national TV will come with a price. It’s possible the league could come down hard on the former No. 1 overall pick, who made strides in cleaning up his game after picking up personal fouls earlier this season.
Following the game, Garrett was contrite, but the damage was already done.
“What I did was foolish, and I shouldn’t have allowed myself to slip like that,” Garrett said softly. “It’s out of character.”
It’s now out of his hands, and it’s possible the league could end Garrett’s season by docking him the final six games.
In 2006, Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games after he stomped on Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode's head. Haynesworth’s punishment is the longest for on-field behavior in league history.
The NFL could act swiftly to punish Garrett, whose actions brought reaction from players across the league.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes posted “Bro I can’t believe that just happened” on Twitter following the game and Houston defensive end J.J. Watt wrote: “That. Is. Insanity. Wow.”
After pulling Rudolph down with eight seconds to go following a short pass, Garrett wrestled with Pittsburgh’s QB on the ground with both players grabbing each other’s heads. When they got to their feet, Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet and swung wildly, hitting the second-year player on top of the head.
Garrett was thrown to the ground by Steelers guard David DeCastro, and center Maurkice Pouncey threw punches and kicked Garrett in the head as players from both sidelines poured onto the field in a scene that goes to the top of the list of skirmishes in the bitter Pittsburgh-Cleveland rivalry.
“I don’t know how he got to the point that it’s OK to use a helmet as a weapon,” Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said. “I know we play a sport that’s violent, but it should never have gotten handled like that. That dumb stuff shouldn’t be allowed. For someone to use a helmet as a weapon is uncalled for.”
Garrett, Pouncey and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi were ejected and all face league discipline.
A self-described pacifist and poet, Garrett apologized to coach Freddie Kitchens and said he intended to talk to his teammates.
“The next time I see them, I’ll address them,” he said. “I am hurting my whole team with what I did, and it could come back to bite us. I don’t know what kind of repercussion I face, but I have to be better.”
The Browns will visit the Steelers on Dec. 1.
Kitchens clearly was not happy with Garrett for losing his cool and overshadowing a huge win for the Browns, who have won two straight games to salvage a season that was starting to slip away.
“You have to be able to maintain your composure in times like that and under no circumstances do we want anything to do with anything like that,” Kitchens said. “I am embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It is not good. He understands what he did, he understands it is totally unacceptable, and we have to get through it.”
The Browns have been among the league’s most penalized teams, and their lack of discipline has been a poor reflection on Kitchens in his first year as coach.
Cleveland committed eight penalties for 121 yards against the Steelers, and Browns defensive backs delivered two helmet-to-helmet blows that gave concussions to Steelers wide receivers.
The second such shot was by Browns safety Damarious Randall, who lowered his head and delivered a nasty hit on Steelers rookie Diontae Johnson, who suffered a concussion and had blood coming from one ear.
Kitchens took issue with the idea his team is reckless, and said he was disappointed for his other players.
“We have five seconds to go in a game — the biggest game that this team has won,” he said. “Never beat Baltimore and Pittsburgh in the same year since 1999, and then we have to talk about this. There are 52 other guys on the team that that hurt, and it is going to hurt moving forward. We do not condone that. Myles understands what he did wrong.”