Browns defensive end Myles Garrett pulled the plug (either at the behest of the Browns or on his own) on a FOX interview in the immediate aftermath of his indefinite suspension for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with his own helmet. Coincidentally (or not) an interview with Garrett landed one day after the NFL officially reinstated him.
The interview undoubtedly represents an effort by Garrett and/or those who advise him to undo damage in the court of public opinion. And the topic of Garrett hearing Rudolph utter a racial slur undoubtedly became part of the effort to make people understand why he blew a gasket, and to get some to say, “I understand why he did it. I would have done it, too.”
But Garrett supposedly was upset that his reference to the alleged slur — which Rudolph and the Steelers vehemently continues to deny — was leaked in the aftermath of Garrett’s original appeal hearing with the league. Kimes asked Garrett why he didn’t want that to get out.
“Because I didn’t want to try to use it as justification for my actions because there’s nothing to justify,” Garrett said. “There’s nothing that I can say or do to justify what I did on that day.”
I can’t say I’ve gotten cynical now that I’m on the wrong side of 50 because I’ve been cynical pretty much since I hit the wrong side of 22. That said, Garrett’s repeated references to an alleged slur are effort to justify what he did, and his repeated insistence that he doesn’t want to use it as justification falls flat.
Garrett couldn’t control the leaks from the hearing (assuming he truly didn’t want word of the slur to get out). But Garrett had full control over the ESPN interview. If he didn’t want the issue of the slur to come up at all, he could have made that a non-negotiable ground rule. ESPN then would have had to decide whether to proceed with the first exclusive! from Garrett following the November incident or move on.
“[Rudolph] said it, but that was three months ago, four months ago now,” Garrett added. “I leave that behind.”
But Garrett can’t leave it behind. Slurs or otherwise, he’s going to be repeatedly baited by opposing players in the hopes he blows a gasket again. And Garrett needs to be ready for it.
“I don’t have sympathy with Myles Garrett if in fact that is what happened,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said on PFT Live in the immediate aftermath of Garrett’s claim of a slur coming to light. “If we’re in the bottom of the pile and Mason Rudolph is kneeing you in the groin or he’s trying to poke your eye out or he’s twisting your knee, something that’s going to affect your ability to do your work and your career, then, yeah, you can go off. But you can’t go off because somebody said something to you. All kinds of things get said out there on the field. There’s four-letter words. In this case it may have been a six-letter word, a multi-syllable word. All of that happens. I can’t go off and jeopardize my team’s chances to go to the playoffs, my career, my ability to make money because somebody called me a name. I don’t care what name he said, that is not an excuse to me.”
Because Garrett has gone off once in response to such language, opponents will be trying to get him to go off again, in the hopes of seeing him sent off the field for six games again — or longer. While it’s wrong to use those slurs, it’s foolish to think he’s not going to constantly and repeatedly hear four-, six-, eight-, ten-, and 12-letter words all aimed at getting him to do something that results either in 15 yards of field position or his removal from the field of play.