Thursday night’s well-after-the-play misconduct by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett will create issues between Garrett and the league office. It also could, in theory, create issues between Garrett and the criminal justice system.
Yes, as crazy as it may sound to those who don’t realize that the rules of society aren’t suspended on a football field, a basketball court, a hockey rink, or a baseball diamond, Garrett could end up in a court of law, charged with felonious or aggravated assault. Indeed, if a football helmet as used in this setting constitutes a “deadly weapon” under Section 2923.11 of the Ohio Revised Code (“any instrument, device, or thing capable of inflicting death, and designed or specially adapted for use as a weapon, or possessed, carried, or used as a weapon”), Garrett committed — in plain sight — an assault against Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph.
Garrett wouldn’t be the first professional athlete to be charged with assault. In 2000, hockey player Marty McSorley received 18 months of probation after striking Donald Brashear in the head with a stick. (McSorley argued he was merely trying to intimidate Brashear; the judge didn’t buy it.)
For several reasons, Garrett likely won’t be charged. First, it happened in Cleveland and not in Pittsburgh (which definitely is a factor, given that prosecutors are elected officials). Second, Rudolph wasn’t knocked out or otherwise injured.
Still, Garrett in theory could be charged. And that underscores the serious nature of what Garrett did.
From the NFL’s perspective, the fact that Rudolph wasn’t seriously injured won’t matter. The image of Garrett whacking Rudolph in the head with his own helmet are damaging enough to The Shield to prompt a significant punishment, possibly under the Personal Conduct Policy. Because the league, as it tries to reverse the trend of moms and dads keeping their kids from playing football, must do whatever it can to show its commitment to player health and safety.