Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett made NFL history earlier this season when he became the first player to commit a single on-field act so egregious that it triggered an indefinite suspension. While there have been numerous defined-length suspensions for on-field conduct in the past, and Vontaze Burfict earlier this season was indefinitely suspended for on-field conduct, this was the first stemming from a solitary incident. The incident that triggered Burfict’s suspension was relatively minor, but was cumulative over the entire length of his career.
Garrett, of course, struck Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in the head with Rudolph’s helmet. This was the climax of the confrontation, which began with Garrett illegally taking Rudolph to the ground after he had thrown a screen pass in a game that was already clearly in the bag for Cleveland with just seconds remaining and up 14 points, deep in Steelers territory, on third and long.
Rudolph responded by attempting to take Garrett’s helmet off while the defender was still lying on top of him. He reacted by pulling Rudolph up off the ground by his facemask, proceeding to wrench and rip off the quarterback’s helmet. The latter then got up and sought to confront him, at which point he struck the blow to Rudolph’s head.
This occurred in a primetime game, so that gave the NFL the impetus to act quickly, and they made sure to suspend him, and others, the following day. Garrett appealed the indefinite nature of his suspension, but lost. Initially, he was barred from being around the team entirely. However, he reportedly has recently been allowed to return to the facility, though of courses is barred from participating in any team activities, whether practices, meetings, or even working out. He can only fraternize and work with the training and medical staff.
Conversely, the league barred former Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant from being with his team while he served an indefinite suspension for a drug offense, sitting out an entire year. The NFL’s rationale in making determinations about who can be around their team and who cannot is often without logic.
“I think the hardest thing is for players to be isolated in these situations because I think it gives them more time to think about the situations they’re in, which can lead to a downward spiral”, said T.J. Carrie, Garrett’s teammate. “So, man, I want to see him as much as possible”.
Garrett has been forced to miss the final six games of the Browns’ regular season, and any potential playoff games. In the offseason, he can apply for reinstatement, at which point, the league will determine if he will be subject to any additional punishment in the form of a continued suspension, but reportedly, they hope to reinstate him at the first opportunity.