Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph spoke to reporters on Wednesday for the first time since being hit in the head with his own helmet by Browns defensive end Myles Garrett near the end of the Week 11 game between the teams.
While Rudolph tried to rip Garrett’s helmet off as the two scuffled and is expected to be fined, he said he “definitely didn’t say anything” to enflame the situation ahead of getting hit with his helmet. Garrett reportedly argued otherwise during the appeal of his indefinite suspension on Wednesday.
According to a report from ESPN, Garrett accused Rudolph of using a racial slur during his initial comments at the appeal hearing overseen by appeals officer James Thrash. Thrash, who is jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA, reportedly “remained stoic and took copious notes” as Garrett spoke and then asked how Garrett would act differently in the future.
Garrett has made no public mention of Rudolph saying anything that provoked his response. He did apologize to Rudolph in a statement released last Friday. A previous report about Garrett’s appeal indicated it was focused on a suspension given to former Texans defensive lineman Antonio Smith for swinging his helmet at an opponent. Smith did not make contact and was suspended for two preseason games and one regular season game.
Rudolph’s attorney issued a strong denial of Garrett’s claim, which he called “reckless and shameful.” Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten released a statement as well.
“Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland,” Lauten said. “He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.”
It’s not clear if on-field mics caught any exchange between the two players or if any such recordings have been consulted as part of the disciplinary process. A ruling on Garrett’s appeal is expected in the near future.