The NFL’s plan for Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, which was upheld by hearing officer James Thrash, consists of sidelining Garrett for the rest of the 2019 season and then figuring out what to do with him in 2020.
The original announcement of Garrett’s suspension requires that he meet with the Commissioner’s office before Garrett will be imposed. At that meeting, and in connection with any other related communications, the NFL’s goal will be to ensure that it has done everything to ensure that whatever fuse blew on Garrett last Thursday night won’t blow again. The NFL needs to be sure that this fuse won’t blow again because the next time Garrett hits a player over the head with his own helmet, the player could be seriously injured.
And if the next player struck over the head with his own helmet by Garrett is seriously injured, the player would be able to make potential legal claims against the NFL for essentially restoring Garrett’s license to be in position to hit someone over the head with his own helmet.
Beyond being the right thing to do, it’s the legally prudent thing to do. While there’s no way to completely ensure that Garrett will never do this again, the NFL must take all reasonable steps to come to the conclusion that it won’t happen again.
Of course, if it happens again that will undermine the efforts to ensure that it won’t happen again, but the NFL will at least be able to introduce testimony and documents proving that it did everything that it could and should have been expected to do to protect opponents from a repeat occurrence from Garrett.
That’s why it’s so important for the NFL to have the ability to assess Garrett in the offseason, and to decide whether he can be trusted not to cross the line with physical violence below and beyond the scope of the game. It’s an important decision for the league to make, and it was wise for Thrash to ensure that the league will have the ability to make that decision before Garrett has the automatic ability to return to the field of play.