Sat, Dec 14, 2019

It isn’t something the NFL should be prepared to tolerate, and it likely won’t be. A key 21-7 win for the Cleveland Browns in their “Thursday Night Football” battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers was marred by the finish to the game, which saw it devolve into a literal fight.

Following two instances of helmet-to-helmet hits from the Browns to the Steelers — both resulting losses of wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson to concussion — Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ratcheted things up to a disturbing degree with only a few seconds remaining in the game. Garrett sacked Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph then followed up by ripping off the quarterback’s helmet and swinging it with full force at his unprotected head.

Once the scrum that followed was sorted out, Garrett was ejected and now undoubtedly faces severe penalties from the NFL that will likely include a hefty fine as well as a long-term suspension — the latter being outright predicted by Baker Mayfield after the game.  

For his part, Garrett apologized for what could’ve been a career- and life-threatening blow to Rudolph’s head.

“I made a mistake,” Garrett said. “I lost my cool and I regret it. … It’s going to come back to hurt our team. The guys who jumped in the scrum, I appreciate my teammates having my back, but it shouldn’t have gotten that far. 

“That’s on me.”

He doesn’t believe, for some reason, that it should overshadow the Browns landing their third win of the year.

“A win’s a win,” he said. “I don’t think it’s overshadowed by what happened in 8 seconds. What we did for the first 59 minutes shouldn’t go unnoticed.”

It will, though, and that’s the reality. With the incident now on film for league commissioner Roger Goodell to review in great detail, Garrett isn’t prepared to predict his future in one way or the other.

“No clue [if] I’ll be suspended,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of repercussion I’ll face, but I gotta be better.”

Rushing to Rudolph’s aid was All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey, who wasn’t ejected but might also see punishment after he threw punches and kicks during the altercation.

“At this point, who cares?” Pouncey said. “My man got hit in the head with a helmet. I’ll accept whatever penalty it is.”

Asked about the incident, Rudolph was unequivocal in his disgust for Garrett’s act.

“Where did it cross the line? Maybe where he took my helmet off and used it as a weapon,” he said. “I know it was bush-league. It was a total coward move on his part. It’s OK. 

“I’ll take it. I’m not gonna take it from any bully.”

What Garrett might learn in a few days is just how powerful Goodell’s hand can be, and he doesn’t need a helmet in it to make it hurt.

If it was up to Pouncey, Garrett would not play another down of football this season.

“Absolutely. Absolutely. 100 percent [he should be out for the season],” he said. “We’ll see how serious the NFL is about their players.”

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