As disquieting and sickening as the video of Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett assaulting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with Rudolph’s own helmet is, it’s hard to take your eyes off if for no other reason than you have almost certainly never seen anything quite like that on a football field — even long after you thought you’d seen everything.
That helmet very easily could have been a lethal weapon, and that is what made the incident so absolutely terrifying.
Garrett has been suspended indefinitely but for no less than the remainder of this season and the playoffs, and he cannot be reinstated next season prior to meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and proving himself worthy.
Immediately following the game, Garrett took full responsibility and Friday morning he issued a statement saying, “Last night, I made a terrible mistake, I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable. I know that we are all responsible for our actions, and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward.
"I want to apologize to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organization, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake, and I fully intend to do so."
The question on people’s minds everywhere now is, are the apologies and/or the punishment enough?
Here in Chicago, we actually witnessed a lesser version of this type of melee a couple months ago, when Bears guard Kyle Long became frustrated with undrafted rookie defensive end Jalen Dalton, ripped his helmet off and swung it at him several times, once landing on Dalton’s shoulder pad before Long flung the helmet and then began throwing punches.
Bears head coach Matt Nagy immediately removed Long from practice and punished him by not allowing him to travel with the team to New York that weekend for the team’s second exhibition game.
It seems Bears players learned a lesson from that experience.
When asked for his reaction Friday, Roquan Smith explained, “Well, you know you try to pride yourself on being the best example that you can be for yourself and your family, the city, organization and everything of that sort.
“So that's definitely something I feel a lot of guys hold dear to themselves. But each and every individual is different. Good thing we have a good group of guys here.”
Khalil Mack still seemed to be a bit shocked by what he’d seen.
“It was kind of like a disbelief moment but ultimately it's something you definitely don't want to see.
“Football is an emotional game but you have to know how to control those emotions, and it was real crazy. Nothing too much I can say about it.
“I learned a long time ago it's not what happened to you, it's how you handle it. It's just one of those learning moments.”
Cleveland’s Garrett is well respected as a player and is not known as dirty or a cheap-shot artist, but he does have some history. The former No. 1 overall pick previously was fined $50,000 in total this season for punching tight end Titans tight end Delanie Walker, and two late hits on Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian, the second knocking him out for the season with an ankle injury.
Perhaps the most important outcome is that Rudolph showed no ill effects from the helmet to his head, only a few weeks after missing back-to-back games with a violent concussion he suffered after Ravens safety Earl Thomas accidentally administered a helmet-to-helmet hit that left Rudolph out cold on the field and teammates frantically calling to the sidelines for help.
At the moment there is no legal action anticipated against Garrett, but it can’t be ruled out.
It will be some time before we learn what Roger Goodell decides will be the full punishment for Garrett, but certainly it must be something severe enough to make clear what Garrett did can never happen again on an NFL playing field.
Many will argue that just missing the rest of an already lost season isn’t enough for Garrett’s clearly intentional assault with a deadly weapon, and I for one am hard-pressed to disagree.