The Cleveland Browns’ Super Bowl last season was pretty much the game that ended with Myles Garrett hitting Mason Rudolph in the head with the quarterback’s own helmet, in the waning seconds of a two-score victory, an incident that occurred at the end of an unsuccessful third-and-long play deep in Pittsburgh Steelers territory.
That win at the time gave them their first consecutive win of the season and allowed them to climb to 4-6. They rode the momentum of that key divisional victory to a blowout of the Miami Dolphins a week later, but they lost all their thunder in the rematch one week after that, finishing the season 1-5, and 6-10 overall.
In all, they went 2-4 without Garrett, their best defensive player, who was given an indefinite suspension for his assault on the field that day. While the suspension held through the end of the year, the NFL has already lifted it, and he will be back on the field the first time the Browns step on grass this year.
“Right now, I think he’s in a good place”, said Joe Woods, the new defensive coordinator for the Browns. “I think as a young player in this league, you go through a lot of different things, so I definitely think he’s going to learn and grow from the situation that happened last year”.
It is true that young players do indeed go through ‘a lot of different things’. Nobody to my knowledge has ever specifically gone through this particular thing before, however, swinging an opponent’s helmet and striking him dead-on on the head on national television. And that was reflected in the unprecedented punishment he received.
Throughout the incident, outside of a couple of stray comments here and there, the Browns on an organizational level have consistently supported Garrett. Baker Mayfield does need to be mentioned for calling him out immediately after the game for his actions, but then you had their head coach wearing a ‘Pittsburgh Started It’ shirt, and then saying he’d wear it again when asked about it.
It’s all been very ‘forgive and forget’ for Garrett, though in truth I’m sure that is what all parties involved would prefer, including Rudolph. Seemingly the thing he was most angry about from the incident was the failure to get a proper chance to fight back.
“He is focused on being a good teammate”, Woods added of what he knows is his greatest asset on the field. “He has been in the meetings. He is trying to step up and take more of a leadership role. I definitely think he is moving in the right direction and has the right mindset”.
The first-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Garrett has been legitimately and inarguably one of the best young defenders in the league. Over 37 career games, he has 30.5 career sacks, with 104 tackles, 32 for loss, six forced fumbles, one recovery, and six batted passes.
He posted 10 sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 10 games last season and was well on his way to a Pro Bowl year, if not All-Pro, before his actions resulted in his being given a suspension that caused him to miss the final six games.