CLEVELAND — Following his in-game brawl with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, it's not a matter of if Myles Garrett will be suspended, but for how long.
On Thursday, the Cleveland Browns star defensive end found himself entangled on the ground with Rudolph in the closing seconds of the Browns' 21-17 victory at FirstEnergy Stadium. As the two rose up, the fight only escalated, with Garrett ripping off Rudolph's helmet and swinging it -- and connecting with -- the Steelers quarterback's head.
Garrett was ejected from the contest as the result of his actions, as were Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi and Pittsburgh offensive tackle Maurkice Pouncey. After the game, Garrett, his teammates and coaches all seemed resigned the reality the Pro Bowl defensive end will soon be serving a suspension -- it's now just a matter of how long it will be.
In determining how long Garrett will be barred from playing for the Browns, there are some factors for the NFL to consider, including:
As noted by James Palmer of the NFL Network, this isn't the first time an NFL player has ripped a helmet off of an opposing player and hit him in the head with it. In the 2013 preseason, Houston Texans defensive end Antonio Smith did the same to Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Richie Incognito -- albeit in much less dramatic fashion.
Smith was ultimately suspended for the final two preseason games, as well as Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season. So that's likely the baseline of what Garrett is looking at.
Considering the magnitude of Thursday night's game -- a primetime, nationally televised affair -- it's probably unlikely the NFL would compare Garrett swinging his helmet at Rudolph to something that happened in a preseason game six years ago. What's more is that Rudolph is a quarterback -- a position the NFL has historically attempted to protect -- as noted by the signal-caller's agent on Twitter after the game.
In addition to the Smith-Incognito altercation, Garrett's actions on Thursday drew comparisons to former Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who stomped on the head of Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Andre Gurode in 2006. Haynesworth was suspended five games, which at the time was the NFL longest suspension for an on-field act before Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict was suspended 12 games for an illegal hit earlier this season.
Speaking of Burfict, it's worth noting that his season-ending suspension came as the result of his repeat offender status. And while Garrett doesn't have the same history as Burfict, he has also battled being labeled a dirty player even prior to Thursday.
Earlier this season, the No. 1 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft was fined $10,527 for hitting Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker in the Browns' Week 1 loss. The following week, Garrett was fined a total of $42,112 for two separate roughing the passer penalties on New York Jets quarterback Trevor Sieman, one of which resulted in a season-ending injury.
As for how much those prior offenses will factor into Garrett's upcoming punishment, that remains to be seen. But the culmination of the circumstances could ultimately result in Cleveland being without the cornerstone of its defense for the foreseeable future.
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