The Cleveland Browns made Myles Garrett the first-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft for a reason. He is a remarkable talent, and he has already shown it quite a bit on the field. Right up to his indefinite suspension 10 games into the 2019 season, he was having a Pro Bowl year, almost surely angling for All-Pro recognition to boot.
While it didn’t stop the team from making him one of the highest-paid defensive players ever earlier this offseason, however, his run-in with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph—the incident that led to his suspension—is one that will mark him and his career forever. He knows it, as well as anyone else.
And he told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that he considered walking away from the game after that. “I did”, he said. “Whether it was because of their decision or my decision, it was whether this was going to continue”, referring to the league’s decision to hand him down an indefinite suspension, and his decision to strike Rudolph in the head with the quarterback’s helmet.
After the incident, Garrett claimed during his appeal hearing that Rudolph used a racial slur during their tussle, though it’s not entirely clear how he intended to use this information as justification for his violent assault and the argument that his suspension should be reduced.
During the interview, he did finally allow for some ambiguity over that claim. “It’d be like other instances where people agree to disagree”, he told the outlet. “Just what I heard, just what you said you said and that’s what it is. If you say you didn’t say that, that’s okay, but that’s what I heard. It is what it is at the end of the day”.
He even worked himself up to go so far as to say that he would like to make peace with Rudolph. “I’d be happy to make it happen, if there were a way”, he said. “I’m not sure how I’d go about that, how I’d broach that. I’m not even sure if he’d want to do that but I wouldn’t have a problem sitting down with him and just not talking about the incident, just talking man-to-man, how we move forward, and just being better men and football players and not letting something like that happen again”.
“Whether we can do that, I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to extend the olive branch and make that happen”, he added.
Whether or not Rudolph will hold a grudge against Garrett for claiming that he used a racial slur, only Rudolph can really know, and hinges on whether or not he actually said it, which none of us can possibly know for ourselves.
What we do know is that Garrett did slam a football helmet into his head. That’s going to be one of the defining moments of his professional career no matter what he does going forward. And knowing that is one of the reasons he chose not to walk away, so that it wouldn’t be the lasting final image of his career.