There were just a few seconds left in the Browns’ 21-7 win Thursday over the Steelers when everything that had happened up to that point became a mere footnote. A fight broke out, during which Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off the helmet of Pittsburgh’s Mason Rudolph and slammed it against the quarterback’s head.
Myles Garrett swings helmet then gets stomped on by the Steelers wow pic.twitter.com/kDl8ThEe67— gifdsports (@gifdsports) November 15, 2019
Myles Garrett doing the unthinkable and unimaginable. pic.twitter.com/Y0UXzrCskn— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 15, 2019
It was a stunning scene, one that left more than a few longtime observers of the NFL saying they’d never witnessed anything like it. Among those expressing shock were a number of current and former players from the league, including 49ers fullback Kyle Jusczcyk, who tweeted that Garrett “should not be allowed to play another snap this season.”
He won’t be: On Friday, the NFL suspended Garrett for at least the rest of this season and the postseason, and he must meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell before he is allowed play again. The Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey, meanwhile, was suspended for three games and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi earned a one-game ban.
The episode immediately became the talk of the NFL, both online and on postgame shows.
“It’s safe to say we’ve all probably lost our cool on the field and had some fights on the field,” NFL Network analyst and former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin said, “but in a league where you’re trying to mitigate and watch injuries, especially head injuries, where you suspend guys for hitting helmet-to-helmet, I don’t see how you’re gonna let Myles Garrett play any more football this year.”
Fellow NFL Network analyst and former wide receiver Steve Smith agreed, telling viewers after the game that Garrett had “lost the privilege of playing football for the remainder of the year.”
Even Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield acknowledged that Garrett would “get suspended” for his act. Speaking on the field just after the contest ended, Mayfield repeatedly told Fox Sports that what his teammate did was “inexcusable” and added, “I don’t care, rivalry or not, we can’t do that. … That’s just endangering the other team.”
Browns QB Baker Mayfield joined @ErinAndrews after tonight's game vs. the Steelers. pic.twitter.com/xPVUIpJjQY— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 15, 2019
Telling reporters at a postgame news conference, “I’ve never seen that in my life,” Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens said, “I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good.
“He understands what he did. He understands it’s totally unacceptable.”
Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey is now facing his own three-game suspension for throwing punches during the melee and trying to kick Garrett in the head after the latter was dragged to the turf. Asked after the game whether Garrett should be banned for the rest of the season, Pouncey replied, “Absolutely. 100 percent. … We’ll see how serious the NFL is about their players.”
Watching from afar, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes could only say on Twitter, “Bro I can’t even believe that just happen[ed].”
Roger Goodell doing the math on the fines. 💀 pic.twitter.com/StFQGxsJUM— Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate) November 15, 2019
How many games suspended for everyone involved tonight? #brownsvsteelers #FightClub— Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate) November 15, 2019
“That’s assault at the least,” former Steelers defensive end James Harrison said on Twitter of Garrett’s act. “6 months in jail on the street,” he tweeted, “now add the weapon and that’s at least a year right?!”
Other former players chimed in, as well, including Hall of Fame center Kevin Mawae, who said it was “completely gutless & classless to swing a helmet at someone else.”
“In all my life of football that might have been the craziest thing I have seen on a football field! They about to suspend Myles Garrett for 30 years!” exclaimed former running back Reggie Bush on Twitter. “People getting stomped out, that was a hood fight! Hate to see that in our game that’s not what pro football is about!”
I love tough football like the next person but that wasn’t ball! That wasn’t ball at all!— Gerald Alexander (@GAlexander21) November 15, 2019
Oh boy, @MylesLGarrett. This isn't going to end well for you.— Lance Briggs (@LanceBriggs) November 15, 2019
Myles worst than the blender tossing fast food worker!! pic.twitter.com/EaIucB4UVx— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) November 15, 2019
Free agent wide receiver Dez Bryant asserted that Garrett was “done for the rest of the year,” but while ESPN analyst and former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho agreed that the defensive end should not “swing his helmet, ever” at an opponent, he tried to put the incident in some context.
Acho noted that Rudolph had first appeared to be trying to pull off Garrett’s helmet and told the quarterback on Twitter, “Don’t try to rip a grown man’s helmet off then charge him helmetless, this ain’t no frat party. … You think Myles Garrett just wanted to talk?”
Acho clarified that he was not necessarily mounting a “defense” of Garrett but, as he put it, just “stating the obvious.”
As for Garrett himself, he told reporters (via USA Today), “I made a mistake, I lost my cool. 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.”