Troy Vincent, the NFL's head of football operations, said more fines will be forthcoming next week Steelers and Browns Thursday night, as the league continues to review all of the events at the end of a game that has .between the
Vincent said he spent late Thursday night and early Friday morning focusing on the four primary individuals at the heart of the ugly scene: Browns defensive linemen Myles Garrett (suspended at least for the duration of this season) and Larry Ogunjobi (one game), and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph (no suspension) and center Maurkice Pouncey (three games). Vincent and his staff focused their initial inquiry into offenses that might rise to the level of suspension, but will spend more time next week sorting through the droves of players and staff who left the sidelines to join in or attempt to join in.
"Our first objective is to determine if there are players who will be missing games," Vincent said during a detailed discussion of the review into the fight. "Because that has implications on the roster and may require a transaction for the team. But we will have plenty to sort through next week as well, and I can assure you, there is another wave of fines coming."
Vincent addressed officials with both teams on Friday after handing out his initial discipline (players have three days to appeal), and tried to impart on both organizations the import to reinforce his message with their players in the coming days to attempt to curb any further issues. The Browns and Steelers play again in two weeks. Both teams were fined $250,000 as well.
"We informed the teams that this is a shared action, and there is responsibility on all sides," Vincent said. "You have to approach this with the entire organization, and not just individual players when you see an egregious situation like this."
Garrett, who has repeatedly drawn penalties and fines this season after being thought of as a clean player in his first two seasons, was always going to receive the steepest discipline. He got into an altercation with Rudolph that extended beyond the play, with the quarterback grabbing his facemask and tugging on it and also striking at Garett's midsection. But Garrett took things to another level when he yanked off Rudolph's helmet, brandished it wildly and then whacked the quarterback in the head with it, striking him directly in the head in a viscous manner.
"That's not us," Vincent said. "That's not who we are. There is no place for that in our game. We all know that. That, frankly, is an easy decision to suspend the player for the duration of the season ... Imagine if he hit him with the crown of the helmet? We cannot have that on a football field."
After that incident a group of Steelers went after Garrett, as expected, and Vincent, as a former star defensive back himself, said he understood the nature of that reaction, trying to protect a player in need and going after someone who attacked a quarterback. But Pouncey's reaction -- repeatedly trying to kick or punch Garrett -- was in stark contrast to teammates who were also surrounding Garrett, like guard David DeCastro and tackle Matt Feiler, who were acting more to separate and diffuse the scene while engaging with Browns players.
"It's about the choice the player made," Vincent said. "It's about the action itself. What did he do and what could he have done? It's not the result, or intent, it's what did he do. Look at what 66 (DeCastro) and 71 (Feiler) did, and then compare that to 53 (Pouncey). He made multiple attempts to strike at and potentially injure another player."
Ogunjobi was one of the later players to the area, taking a running start and pushing Rudolph to the ground after he had just been struck in the head. While some have argued that the push might not merit a suspension, Vincent would counter after the scope of that action within the backdrop of what else was occurring on the field at that time, similar to what transpired a few years back between the Broncos and Raiders between corner Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree on the sidelines.
"This is an individual who, in our view, was going out of his way to escalate this situation," Vincent said. "This is an action that could start another melee. It is a potential re-escalation."
Rudolph clearly went at Garrett after being driven hard to the ground on the preceding play, grabbing the facemask and kicking out at him. Vincent and his staff did not deem the actions worthy of a suspension but they will continue to pour over the video next week to determine the extent of the fines, and it sounds like more than one could be coming.
"The grabbing of the facemask, that is a fine," Vincent said. "We'll continue to sort through that next week, but yes, there could be multiple fines coming to him if we find another action that constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct."
Vincent said football operations had begun to explore some of the upper-deck and higher camera angles to ascertain all of the actions coming off the sidelines as players flocked to the end zone where the fighting was occurring. On Friday they were focused on the 22 players on the field during the incident, but by the middle of next week many more fines will be issued.
"We already got a quick look at who was walking off the sideline and who was sprinting," Vincent said. "We'll take a very close look at all of that next week."