During that fracas, which drew in players from both teams, Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet and hit the quarterback in the head with it. That act earned Garrett an indefinite suspension that cost him the final six games of the season. The ban ended Wednesday when the NFL reinstated him.
Garrett appealed his suspension, and he first alleged Rudolph used the slur during his Nov. 20 hearing with the league. The quarterback then issued a vehement denial through his agent, Timothy Younger, and the NFL said it found no evidence to support Garrett’s claim.
During the ESPN interview, Garrett insisted that “something was said," regardless of “whether the NFL wants to acknowledge it.”
“When he said [the slur], it kind of sparked something,” Garrett said, “but I still tried to let it go and still walk away. But once he came back, it kind of reignited the situation.”
The NFL handed out 33 fines for various levels of involvement in the brawl. The teams were fined $250,000 each. In addition to Garrett’s suspension — which cost him $1.14 million in lost wages in addition to his $45,623 fine — Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey was suspended for two games (after having a three-game ban reduced on appeal) and Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi was given a one-game ban.
“But it is what it is,” he added. “I think I’ve moved on.”
In the ESPN interview, Garrett said, “I know what happened, I know what I heard. … He said it, but that was three, four months ago, and I’ll leave that behind.”
That echoed Garrett’s language in a written statement he issued after news broke that he had made his accusation during the November appeal hearing.
“I know what I heard,” Garrett said in that statement, which he posted to Twitter. “Whether my opponent’s comment was born out of frustration or ignorance, I cannot say. But his actions do not excuse my lack of restraint in the moment, and I truly regret the impact this has had on the league, the Browns and our devoted fans.”
Garrett, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, also expressed dismay in that statement that his accusation had leaked during what he called an “opportunity to speak openly and honestly about the incident that led to my suspension.”
“This was not meant for public dissemination,” he wrote, “nor was it a convenient attempt to justify my actions or restore my image in the eyes of those I disappointed.”
Asked by ESPN about those comments, Garrett replied, “I didn’t want to use it as justification for my actions because there’s nothing to justify. There’s nothing that I can say or do to justify what I did on that day.
“I don’t want to make it a racial thing, honestly,” he added. “It’s over with for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s over with for Mason, so we just want to move past it and keep on playing football.”
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