Does Mason Rudolph deserve to get off without a suspension for his role in the helmet brawl?

by Jordy McElroy

The punishments have been doled out by the NFL, but the dust has yet to settle from the infamous helmet brawl involving Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett.

It has been a story with more twists and turns than a labyrinth; the latest being Rudolph allegedly uttering the unforgivable racial slur towards Garrett. There are no hot microphones or player accounts to corroborate Garrett’s accusations—just video footage of a typical football scuffle escalating into him ripping off Rudolph’s helmet and whacking him over the head with it.

Welcome to a classic he said, he said.

Rudolph’s lawyer, Timothy M. Younger, commented on the incident not long after the news dropped, vehemently denying anything racial was ever said.

In the aftermath of the incident, Garrett was asked if something was said that would have pushed him into such an unhinged rage.

“They just got to go look at it. I’m not going to comment on it,” Garrett calmly said.

None of the Steelers players within the vicinity of the incident reported hearing anything racial-related ever coming from Rudolph. There haven’t been any Browns players that have come forward to back up Garrett’s version of events, either.

Players within the locker room weren’t even aware an alleged racial slur was at the root of the entire incident.

That has led to legitimate questions surrounding Garrett’s behavior in the immediate aftermath of the brief melee. Why didn’t he storm into the locker room telling anyone that would listen what was said on the field? Why was he so calm and cool with Rudolph being painted as the victim in the entire ordeal? Why wait so long to tell the world his version of what happened?

Those are all fair questions that will likely push fans into one of two camps: The side that believes Garrett was saying whatever he could in hopes of getting his indefinite six-game suspension reduced, or the side that believes he hinted at what happened after the game, while waiting for a chance to tell his side to the league behind closed doors.

Yet, the biggest talking point is the fact that Rudolph somehow managed to walk away from the incident with only a $50,000 fine.

Steelers offensive lineman Maurkice Pouncey is serving a two-game suspension for his actions in the fight, and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game. Meanwhile, Garrett is done for the season and currently faces the possibility of missing time at the start of next season as well.

An argument can easily be made that Rudolph initiated the fateful sequence of events by attempting to rip Garrett’s helmet off before things escalated to a level they shouldn’t have gone. The Steelers quarterback was rightfully miffed after Garrett fought tooth-and-nail to tackle him to the ground on a failed sack attempt, even though it was clear the ball was out of his hands. Couple that with the fact that the Steelers were on the verge of losing their fifth game of the season on a night where Rudolph threw four interceptions, and it was like pouring a gallon of gasoline on a bonfire.

Despite being handed a hefty fine, Rudolph did enough to warrant at least a one game suspension with the other involved parties. Anything more than that would have been overkill, assuming there isn’t any evidence out there to validate Garrett’s claims.

It was simply a situation where the league felt it wasn’t in a position to levy a punishment of any sort after one man’s accusation.

The only thing anyone can say with complete certainty is Garrett used a helmet as a weapon to hit another player over the head with it. That one egregious act has been played endlessly on a loop on every mainstream news outlet. It’s the lone, buoyant act of veracity in a sea of speculation. 

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