Myles Garrett, the star defensive end for the Cleveland Browns who removed an opponent’s helmet and hitting him with it on Thursday night, is a player for whom stellar play and occasional violent conduct have gone hand-in-hand.
During an on-field fracas as the Browns played the Pittsburgh Steelers, Garrett pulled off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and hit him in the head with it. Garrett was ejected from the game and then suspended indefinitely by the league on Friday.
Garrett, a 23-year-old Texan, was considered one of the best high school prospects in the nation and was a blue-chip signing for Texas A&M. He was a freshman all-American and then a first-team all-American in his sophomore and junior years.
“If you don’t draft me No. 1, I will punish your team for the next 10 to 12 years,” he told ESPN. “I’ll knock your QB out of the game every time we play you.”
The Browns took the warning and selected him the No. 1 player over all.
But for a player whose athleticism was off the charts — he is a fearsome pass rusher and a ferocious tackler — there were also more than the usual number of naysayers. The Hall of Famer Warren Sapp told ESPN: “I’m a pretty plain and frank guy, and I watch the tape and he disappears.” Some also questioned Garrett’s durability.
He took some criticism for suggesting — perhaps jokingly — that he would rather play for his home-state Cowboys than the Browns.
Garrett did have an injury-plagued rookie year in the N.F.L. But he blossomed into a Pro Bowler in the 2018 season.
Hopes were high this season that the perennial doormat Browns could have a breakthrough, and Garrett, a potential defensive player of the year, was considered a big part of that. The Browns are a disappointing 4-6, but Garrett’s numbers are equal or better than last year’s. He has 10 sacks and 11 tackles for a loss this season, ranking fourth in the league in both categories.
But before Thursday’s incident, Garrett had been $50,000 for several penalties, notably punching Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans and two roughing-the-passer plays on Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian, one of which ended his season.
After the Walker incident in Week 1, Garrett told Cleveland.com: “Yeah, usually I don’t let things like that get to me and I won’t let it happen again.”
The hits on Siemian, especially the second, were widely derided as dirty. “I don’t want a reputation as a guy who hits late or hits high intentionally,” Garrett told reporters. “That’s never my goal.”
In October, Garrett reported being punched in the face by a fan in Cleveland who had initially asked for a photograph. He also was occasionally outspoken on other topics, blasting Kevin Durant, for example, for joining the Nets and criticizing N.F.L. officials when he felt they were unfair to the Browns.
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