CLEVELAND — Almost as soon as Myles Garrett swung and hit Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph in his head with his own helmet, the public backlash against the Cleveland Browns defensive end began.
“One of the worst things I’ve ever seen on a professional sports field,” Fox play-by-play announcer Joe Buck said of Garrett's strike.
With a full Friday media cycle left to dissect the fight and its aftermath, Garrett took a public beating, even after the NFL announced the Pro Bowl defensive end had been suspended indefinitely -- and at a minimum, for the remainder of the 2019 regular season and playoffs. One prominent reporter referred to Garrett's actions as "assault," while Joe Posnanski of The Athletic stated "the shock of seeing Garrett hitting Rudolph with that helmet still shakes me.”
But as distance has been gained from Thursday's melee, a funny thing has started to happen in regards to the reaction to it. While nobody has condoned Garrett's actions and the general consensus appears to be that his punishment was fair, the blowback against him has softened with many in the media -- especially former players -- taking a gentler approach than what was seen on Friday.
Here's a sample of what they're saying:
"After listening to all the chatter all week-long, I've come to the opinion that, I get it. I don't know what the fuss is because we played this game, how violent it can be and how emotional it is" former Steelers and current Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw said on Sunday. "Myles Garrett made a mistake and I just want all our viewers to know that everyone on this dais would tell you what a really good kid he is, regardless of what you saw."
Added Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long: "The other part that bothered me during the week was Myles Garrett is public enemy No. 1. You know Myles Garrett. Myles Garrett -- this is what we call a brain fart. He had a bad moment. He lost composure and did something he shouldn't have done. That's not who Myles Garrett is. If you know Myles Garrett, Myles Garrett is a great football player and a really good man. And I think Myles Garrett is going to have to spend the rest of his career trying to kind of overcome the stigma of this one Thursday night and that's unfortunate."
"I've been there. I've hit somebody in the head with a helmet. I'll flat out say it -- in practice," said Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan. "We got into it. Afterward, I felt horrible. It does not define me. But if you haven't been in that situation, you don't understand. He's not right about what he did. I was not right by what I did. But what I can say is that it does not define me because that's not who I am. But we're in a culture called the "cancel culture." It's the internet. Something happens, 'cancel him, get him out of here, let him go, he should never play again.' It's the most ridiculous thing. Because what he did was wrong, nobody's saying it wasn't. But this is a kid you cannot cancel. This does not define who he is for the rest of his career."
The empathy for Garrett wasn't limited to Fox's main pregame show, but also extended to a players' only table that included Rob Gronkowski, Michael Vick, Tony Gonzalez and Charles Woodson, where each stated there was more to the fight that may have initially met the eye.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Garrett's appeal of his suspension will be heard by the league office on Wednesday. Whether or not the shift in public sentiment will help him remains to be seen.