Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns was suspended for at least the rest of the season on Friday for pulling off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hitting him in the head with it.
The suspension is the longest for any player for a single on-field incident, and the N.F.L. said in a tweet on Friday that Garrett would need to meet with league officials to be reinstated next season.
Two other players were also suspended and the Browns and Steelers were fined $250,000 each.
The incident began with eight seconds remaining in Cleveland’s 21-7 home victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night, after Rudolph completed a pass and was wrapped up by Garrett, who held on and dragged Rudolph to the ground.
The players began wrestling while still on the grass, and Rudolph tugged at Garrett’s helmet. As two Steelers linemen tried to pull Garrett away from Rudolph, Garrett then grabbed Rudolph’s face mask and lifted him to his feet, eventually pulling his helmet free.
As the players were being separated, Rudolph chased after Garrett, who then swung the helmet with his right hand, hitting the quarterback on the top of the head.
Rudolph said after the game that he did not feel any ill effects from the strike. But he was stunned by Garrett’s behavior, calling it “bush league” and “a total coward move on his part.”
Garrett told reporters that his behavior was “foolish.”
“I lost my cool and I regret it,” Garrett said. “It’s going to come back to hurt our team. The guys who jumped into the scrum, I appreciate my team having my back, but it never should have gotten to that point.
“It’s on me.”
Garrett said he would talk to his teammates on Friday. “I will address them all; I hurt my whole team,” he said.
Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens called Garrett’s actions “totally unacceptable,” and Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield — one of several teammates who were critical of Garrett after the game — labeled it “inexcusable.”
It was the first suspension for Garrett, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, but not his first brush with controversy for rough play this season. He was fined more than $50,000 in September for a collection of incidents that included his punching a Tennessee Titans player and two roughing-the-passer penalties against the Jets. One of those hit produced a season-ending injury for Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian.
Within seconds of the helmet attack, players from both benches poured onto the field, and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey punched and kicked at the head of the fallen Garrett. Pouncey was suspended for three games and faced an additional fine.
“You have to be able maintain your composure in times like that,” Kitchens said. “I’m embarrassed. Myles is embarrassed. It’s not good.”
Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin declined to discuss the fight. “I’ll keep my thoughts to myself,” he said. “You guys saw what happened at the end.”
The fight resulted in the ejections of Garrett, Pouncey, and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi, who knocked Rudolph to the ground after the quarterback was hit by the helmet. Ogunjobi was suspended for one game. (Besides any suspensions or fines considered after the game, N.F.L. rules call for an automatic ejection for using a helmet as a weapon.)
The game was rough throughout; Pittsburgh lost two receivers to concussions. A late blow to the head of the Steelers rookie Diontae Johnson led to the ejection of Browns safety Damarious Randall. The Browns are the most penalized team in the league this year, with 87 penalties for 822 yards.
In an on-field interview immediately after the game, Mayfield said that the passion of the Browns-Steelers rivalry did not justify a player’s losing control the way Garrett had.
“I don’t care, rivalry or not, we can’t do that,” Mayfield said. He added: “Endangering the other team, it’s inexcusable. He knows that. I hope he does now.”
Earlier this year, the N.F.L. suspended Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the remaining 12 games of the season because of an intentional hit to another player’s helmet and because Burfict had repeatedly delivered illegal — and dangerous — hits despite being fined and suspended for prior offenses.
Albert Haynesworth of the Titans was suspended five games in 2006 for pulling off the helmet of Andre Gurode of the Cowboys and stomping on him.
Garrett’s actions led to some commentators calling for him to be criminally prosecuted, but that would be unlikely. On-field activity in sports almost never leads to off-the-field criminal consequences. Most athletes, and courts at various times, have subscribed to the notion that playing a sport means agreeing to accept some risk of violence.
In a rare exception, Marty McSorley of the N.H.L. was convicted of assault by a British Columbia court in 2000 after swinging his stick at the head of Donald Brashear on the ice. He got a suspended jail sentence, in addition to a suspension by the league.
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