One of the most remarkably tone-deaf comments that I have heard from an NFL player recently came last week from Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns, who finished the final six games of the 2019 season serving what at the time was an indefinite suspension after he struck Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with force, using Rudolph’s own helmet.
While he appeared to escape significant injury—he didn’t even go to the ground—it was described by many as one of the most disturbing acts that they can recall seeing on a football field, and forced the NFL to react quickly. Two other players were also suspended and over a dozen fined for their role in the ensuring chaos.
Since that incident, Garrett was reinstated by the NFL not long after the 2019 season was over. In recent weeks, the Browns signed him to a new five-year contract that will pay him $125 million—or $25 million per season, the highest ever for a defensive player—beginning in 2022, after his rookie contract with fifth-year option is completed.
On Thursday, he spoke with local media for the first time since his suspension, and obviously was asked to comment on his new contract, as well as the incident that resulted in him being handed the largest suspension in NFL history for a single on-field incident.
“My life is much bigger than one moment”, he said, over the virtual airwaves in a video available on the team’s website, and the transcription here provided in an article there. “Me, the Browns and my teammates are going to look past that and go on to greater success. That will just be a small bump in the road”. The only worse one I can think of is when Ray Rice said in a statement after video of him was released knocking out his wife in an elevator, “failure is not getting knocked down. It’s not getting up”. Chef’s-kiss level of bad choice of words.
Calling an incident in which you struck somebody with violence over the head with a blunt object ‘a small bump in the road’ can be generously described as tone-deaf. Since his reinstatement, he hasn’t been overly apologetic for what he has done—in fact, his first action after reinstatement was to participate in an ESPN interview in which he revisited his accusation that Rudolph called him a racial slur, and that that in part contributed to his being driven to strike him.
As it stands in actuality, of course, Garrett is an elite NFL player who is viewed as having ‘served his time’. Outside of snide comments from fans of opposing teams regarding the incident, the only way in which it will continue to shade his career is if he has another on-field incident, in which case, his history will be taken into consideration when weighing possible discipline.
“We don’t believe one moment should define him based on how he has handled himself prior to and in the months after last year’s incident”, said rookie general manager Andrew Berry. “We are excited to ensure that Myles will stay in Cleveland for the foreseeable future”.