Say what you will about Myles Garrett, call him hot-headed and irresponsible, out-of-control and sinister, but there’s one thing about the Cleveland Browns defensive end that’s simply not true.
He’s no Vontaze Burfict. He’s not a thug disguised as an NFL player. And it seems as if the league has given him the benefit of doubt by lifting Garrett’s indefinite suspension.
Garrett certainly lost his mind during the Browns’ Week 11 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. After Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph tugged at his facemask after a sack in the waning moments of the game, Garrett dislodged Rudolph’s helmet and then swung it at Rudolph’s head, making some contact.
You can’t have that in sports. You can’t have one athlete purposely trying to cause physical harm to another.
Garrett paid a significant price for his indiscretion. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended him without pay for the remainder of the 2019 season with no guarantee he’d allow him back into the league.
But now it’s February and cooler heads have prevailed. And after appearing at Goodell’s office earlier this week, obviously in a contrite mood, the commissioner lifted the ban.
“We welcome Myles back to our organization with open arms,” Browns general manager Andrew Berry said via a team statement. “We know he is grateful to be reinstated, eager to put the past behind him and continue to evolve and grow as a leader. We look forward to having his strong positive presence back as a teammate, player and person in our community.”
You can expect Garrett to take his reinstatement seriously. Although he is one of the league’s most tenacious defenders, with a bit of a reputation, you figure he’ll treat the game with more respect.
And if he doesn’t, he’s probably been told by Goodell any other incident even close to resembling the helmet debacle, would likely result in a more serious suspension.
How many times has Burfict, the Oakland Raiders linebacker, been warned and sanctioned by the league for dirty play? And yet he did it again last season, delivering a late blow to defenseless Colts tight end Jack Boyle in Week 4 that resulted in his expulsion and season-long suspension.
We believe Garrett will be a lot smarter than that.
In retrospect, Garrett’s suspension was one of a number of dumb on and off-the-field incidents involving Browns players that resulted in a 6-10 season. There was the perception rookie coach Freddie Kitchens created a lawless culture and then condoned repeated stupidity from Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham, Jr., and Jarvis Landry.
Those days appear to be over. Kitchens was fired and replaced by Kevin Stefanski, Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. And Browns GM John Dorsey resigned and was replaced by Berry. One can expect a more buttoned-up approach for the 2020 season.
Garrett has a huge upside. He’s only 24 years old. At the time of his suspension, he had 10 sacks through 10 games. His 30.5 career sacks are the most by any Browns player in the first three years of their career.
And if you think Garrett got off to easy, just remember how Rudolph reacted to the incident once he had a few days to chill. After initially calling Garrett’s action’s cowardly, he refused to harbor any resentment.
“I should’ve done a better job handling that situation,” Rudolph said in November. “I have no ill will towards Myles Garrett. Great respect for his ability as a player. And I know that if Myles could go back, he would handle the situation differently.
“We had already lost two of our players to targeting penalties from the game. As I released the ball, I took a late shot. Did not agree with the way he then took me to the ground and my natural reaction was just to get him off from on top of me.
“I’ve got to do a better job at keeping my composure in those situations, and I think it was an unfortunate situation for both teams involved.”
Look, things happen on the football field. And we’d admit, it’s been a long time since we witnessed anything as egregious as the Garrett-Rudolph incident.
But the NFL has said it’s time to forgive and forget. And Garrett understands he’s now operating in a no-tolerance environment. It’s like he said the day after it happened:
“Last night, I made a terrible mistake. I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable. I know that we are all responsible for our actions and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward. I want to apologize to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organization, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake and I fully intend to do so.”
Maybe something good will come out of it.