On Thursday evening, Cleveland Browns defensive finish Myles Garrett dedicated the closest factor we have seen to an on-field crime within the fashionable period of professional soccer. Just one response will suffice. The NFL should problem the longest suspension for a single on-field act in its historical past, ending Garrett’s 2019 season with six video games remaining on the Browns’ schedule and making clear to the world that what occurred at FirstEnergy Stadium is likely one of the worst moments on the sector in its historical past.
Such self-discipline, as harsh because it might sound, will not be significantly controversial to anybody who noticed Garrett rip off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet after which use it to pummel his unprotected head. If Garrett hit somebody with a helmet on the streets of Cleveland, he would face arrest. The outburst left grizzled soccer veterans gasping at its sheer violence, a throwback matched by solely a handful — if any — of intentional acts in 100 years of league play.
The size of Garrett’s absence should not be too robust for the NFL to determine. It suspended Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict indefinitely earlier this season for an accumulation of on-field acts, culminating with a helmet-to-helmet hit, however the longest suspension it has issued for a single on-field incident is 5 video games. That occurred in 2006 when then-Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth ripped the helmet off Dallas Cowboys middle Andre Gurode after which kicked and stomped on his face. Gurode wanted 30 stitches to shut the injuries.
Rudolph was lucky to avoid a similar fate, or worse. The stunned expression on the face of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, speaking moments later in an interview on Fox, depicted the weight of the scene. Mayfield couldn’t summon an ounce of defense for his teammate.
“It’s inexcusable,” he said. “That’s just endangering the other team. … The reality is he is going to get suspended. We don’t know how long, and that hurts our team.”
Don’t forget that Rudolph was knocked unconscious last month by a hit to his helmet and missed one game. The contact from that blow, initiated by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas III, was so severe that Rudolph’s eyes were closed before he hit the ground. If you knew that context, you were surely cringing as you saw Garrett bash Rudolph’s head, topped off by Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi pushing Rudolph to the ground from behind. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey then entered the fray, kicking and punching Garrett and escalating the scene to a point where it wouldn’t have been surprising to see police officers on the field. (Rudolph did pull at Garrett’s helmet while both were on the ground, but that bit of aggressiveness hardly merited the response.)
“I lost my cool, and I regret it,” Garrett said afterward. Rudolph called it “cowardly” and “bush league” after the game. But I’m sorry, using normal words to describe a singular act of violence risks assimilating it into all the other dirty and unsportsmanlike plays we’ve seen in football.
This was worse than Chuck Bednarik’s knockout of Frank Gifford in 1960. It was worse than Jack Tatum’s hit on Darryl Stingley in 1978, one that ultimately left Stingley paralyzed. Those plays, the first two that come to mind in the NFL’s history of on-field violence, were part of the flow of game action. Bednarik clotheslined Gifford in a tackle technique that was not uncommon in that era. Tatum lined up a hit to the head of Stingley, who was stretching for the ball in what would now be considered a defenseless position.
They were violent, unnecessary and exceedingly damaging. Garrett’s absurdity, on the other hand, came after the whistle, outside of any semblance of competition.
Maurkice Pouncey says the NFL should suspend Myles Garrett for the rest of the season after hitting Mason Rudolph in the head with a helmet.
There are few precedents in NFL history that come close to matching it. Haynesworth’s stomp is one. In 2013, Antonio Smith ripped off the helmet of Richie Incognito and swung it close to his face. For that, Smith was suspended for three games. In 1954, according to pro football historian Dan Daly, Colts defensive finish Don Joyce hit Rams linebacker Les Richter with a helmet, for which he was ejected however not suspended.
That, after all, was 65 years in the past.
The NFL ought to be wanting to exhibit its mettle at a time when it has by no means been extra cognizant of and attentive to mind well being. There ought to be little debate Friday on the league headquarters in New York Metropolis. Commissioner Roger Goodell ought to need the world to understand how distinctive this case is. Soccer cannot be like this anymore.
However the fact is that it has not often — if ever — been like this. The NFL’s punishment ought to mirror that sobering truth.