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Why Myles Garrett's accusation against Mason Rudolph doesn't hold water

Touchdown Wire 11/21/2019 Doug Farrar
a man holding a baseball bat © Provided by USA Today Sports Media Group LLC

During Browns defensive end Myles Garrett’s appeal for the indefinite suspension handed down after he removed Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and whacked him over the head with it at the end of Cleveland’s win over the Steelers on Nov. 14, Garrett testified that Rudolph used a racial slur against Garrett.

The NFL released a statement in which it said that there was no evidence of this.

“Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland,” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement. “He will not discuss this accusation any further, and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”

Timothy M. Younger, Rudolph’s attorney, said this in a statement: “According to ESPN, in his appeal, Myles Garrett falsely asserted that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur toward him, prior to swinging a helmet at Mason’s uncovered head, in a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.

“The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity, which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment.”

Garrett’s suspension was upheld, and he will not play through the rest of the 2019 season, however long that lasts for the 4-6 Browns. However, the reaction to Garrett’s claim was just getting started.

“I just don’t see Myles as someone who would lie or do anything like that,” Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “At this point, it is what it is. We’re all just kind of waiting and just hoping that justice is served.”

Jake Trotter, ESPN’s Browns reporter, asked Baker Mayfield and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson about the accusation.



Richardson’s response is especially interesting, as he was on the field when the incident happened, while Mayfield — who was obviously on the sideline — would have only hearsay evidence to go with.

Was Garrett trying to save his own skin, or is there something to this? I went back and looked at the play in question, and I have serious doubts. I think Rudolph did throw one particular expletive during the play, but it didn’t appear to be directed at Garrett.

As Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi pushes Rudolph to the ground, cursory lip-reading shows an expletive that starts with B. Not necessarily racial in nature, but also not something I’d want to hurl at the 6-foot-3, 305-pound Ogunjobi. That said, such language is not uncommon during a fracas on the field.

Going back to the progression of the actual play, we can see Garrett slamming Rudolph to the ground, Rudolph trying to pull Garrett’s helmet off, Garrett pulling Rudolph’s helmet off, offensive linemen Matt Feiler (No 71) and David DeCastro (No. 66) coming in to intervene, and referee Clete Blakeman coming in to break the fight up and throw the flag. Unless Rudolph used this slur while he was trying to pull Garrett’s helmet off, Blakeman likely would have heard it, and there’s no way an NFL referee would have let that slide.

Then, we have the post-fight hangout, where Rudolph (No. 2) is standing alone on the field, and Browns defensive lineman Devaroe Lawrence (No. 99) getting Garrett off the field. Had anyone else heard Rudolph say something of that nature, one assumes there would be a line of players eager to discuss it with him.

There’s also the matter of Garrett not saying anything about this until his appeal hearing. In the modern news cycle, it’s difficult to imagine this story not getting out; especially considering the fact that if Garrett or one of his teammates had relayed it, it would have gone some distance in explaining (although not excusing) his actions.

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Thursday that in making their determination, the league went though all available audio of the game, including miked-up players, and the reports officials file after each game. In the league’s determination, nothing was seen or heard to be a mitigating factor.

That’s not to say that Rudolph didn’t say something; the evidence we have is circumstantial. But based on what we know and what we can see, it’s difficult to believe.

Touchdown Wire editor Doug Farrar has also covered football for Yahoo! Sports, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, the Washington Post, and Football Outsiders. His first book, “The Genius of Desperation,” a schematic history of professional football, was published by Triumph Books in 2018 and won the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Nelson Ross Award for “Outstanding recent achievement in pro football research and historiography.”

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