Saying “I know what I heard,” suspended Cleveland Browns player Myles Garrett on Thursday stood by his allegation that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph used a racial slur to spark the helmet-swinging brawl that got Garrett suspended.
Garrett’s claim emerged Wednesday during an appeals hearing, according to ESPN. An NFL spokesperson said Thursday the league had upheld the six-game suspension, the longest in NFL history for an on-field incident.
The league also said it “found no such evidence” to back up Garrett’s accusation about the racial slur. Earlier Thursday the Steelers said in a statement that Rudolph denies using a racial slur.
Garrett said he was disappointed his accusation had leaked.
“I was assured that the hearing was space that afforded the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about the incident that led to my suspension,” he said in a statement. “This was not meant for public dissemination, nor was it a convenient attempt to justify my actions or restore my image in the eyes of those I disappointed.
“I know what I heard. 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.”
Browns General Manager John Dorsey said the team will continue to support Garrett, a defensive end and first overall pick in the 2017 draft.
“As we’ve consistently stated, our organizational support for Myles will continue,” Dorsey’s statement said. “He is a man of high character and unquestionable integrity. He was open and honest with us about the incident from the start. He has taken accountability for his actions on Thursday night and this situation will not define him. As an organization, our focus going forward remains on the task-at-hand, which is preparing for the Miami Dolphins.”
‘Mason vehemently denies the report’
The Steelers issued their own statement on Thursday, in which Rudolph denied using a slur near the end of the November 14 game in Cleveland. The Browns won that game 21-7.
“Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland,” the Steelers said. “He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
The NFL said Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey’s original discipline of a three-game suspension has been reduced to a two-game suspension for his role in the fight. Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi lost his appeal and will remain suspended for one game.
When asked about the accusation, the NFL Players Association had no comment.
Appeals officers Derrick Brooks and James Thrash, who were jointly appointed by the NFL and the Players Association, ruled on all three appeals cases.
Rudolph, Garrett have apologized
On Wednesday, Rudolph met with reporters to apologize for not handling the melee better. When asked if he had said or done anything to trigger Garrett’s helmet-swinging attack, Rudolph said, “I definitely didn’t say anything that escalated it. But like I said, I have to do a better job of keeping my composure in those situations and I think it was an unfortunate situation for both teams involved.”
Garrett apologized last Friday, saying: “I made a terrible mistake.”
“I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable,” Garrett’s statement read. “I know that we are all responsible for our actions and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward.
The fight started with seconds left in the game, when Garrett took Rudolph to the ground after Rudolph completed a meaningless screen pass. They tussled on the ground, with Rudolph appearing to tug at the back of Garrett’s helmet.
Then Garrett got to his feet and pulled off Rudolph’s helmet. Pittsburgh guard David DeCastro pushed Garrett away, but Rudolph got up and chased them. Then Garrett swung the helmet onto the former Oklahoma State quarterback’s head.
The NFL said Garrett was suspended “removing the helmet of an opponent and using the helmet as a weapon.”