Now fully reinstated to the NFL, Myles Garrett says he wants to move on from the incident that landed him an indefinite suspension by the league in 2019, when he swung a helmet at the head of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. The move sparked a full-on brawl between the two teams that led to 33 suspensions and more than $700,000 in fines being handed down by Roger Goodell, and Garrett not-so-surprisingly bore the brunt of the commissioner's wrath.
Initially, both Garrett and the Cleveland Browns issued formal apologies to Rudolph and the Steelers, which were undercut by subsequent accusations by Garrett that Rudolph used a racial slur toward him, which he allegedly reacted to with his helmet. The league cited no witnesses who could back Garrett's claim, but that hasn't stopped him from doubling down on it following his reinstatement.
In an interview with Mina Kimes of ESPN, Garrett continued his allegations against Rudolph. The Steelers quarterback issued a response, labeling it a character assassination attempt.
Rudolph wasn't the only one to issue a formal statement, with head coach Mike Tomlin doing so as well and, in the process, providing more insight into what occurred the evening of Nov. 14.
"I support Mason Rudolph not only because I know him, but also because I was on that field immediately following the altercation with Myles Garrett, and subsequently after the game," Tomlin said. "I interacted with a lot of people in the Cleveland Browns organization -- players and coaches. If Mason said what Myles claimed, it would have come out during the many interactions I had with those in the Browns' organization. In my conversations, I had a lot of expressions of sorrow for what transpired.
"I received no indication of anything racial or anything of that nature in those interactions."
The most fiery response came from Rudolph's agents, Younger & Associates, who stopped just short of promising legal action against Garrett.
"We waited to hear the entire interview. Garrett, after originally apologizing to Mason Rudolph, has made the ill-advised choice of publishing the belated and false accusation that Mr. Rudolph uttered a racial slur on the night in question. Note that Mr. Garrett claims that Mr. Rudolph uttered the slur simultaneously with being taken down, and before Mr. Garrett committed a battery by striking Mr. Rudolph on the head with a six-pound helmet. His claim is ludicrous.
"This obviously was not the first time Mr. Rudolph had been sacked by an African-American player. Mr. Garrett maliciously uses this false allegation to coax sympathy, hoping to be excused for what clearly is inexcusable behavior. Despite other players and the referee being in the immediate vicinity, there are zero corroborating witnesses -- as confirmed by the NFL. Although Mr. Rudolph had hoped to move forward, it is Mr. Garrett who has decided to utter this defamatory statement -- in California.
"He is now exposed to legal liability."
The NFL as a whole, and especially the two clubs involved, had presumably hoped to move past the event as both sides ready to begin building for the 2020 season. And while a reinstated Garrett openly says he wants the same, his comments have now thrust the details of Nov. 14 back onto center stage, and Rudolph -- along with his representation and the Steelers organization -- refuse to stand by idly and allow the accusations to continue without response or possible consequence.
Where this goes from here is anyone's guess, but Rudolph's legal team is now involved and words like "defamatory" and "legal liability" being tossed around appear to set the stage for what could be a looming court battle.
If that happens, one of the darkest days in NFL history will become that much more so.