An interesting counter-narrative surfaced on Thursday night in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Steelers-Cleveland Browns brawl, and it was especially popular on NFL Network.
For anyone who turned off the game after Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s fourth interception and went to bed, a melee we’ll remember for a long time broke out. Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and Rudolph got into it at the end of a play, Garrett tore Rudolph’s helmet off and hit him in the head with it. Everyone agreed it was terrible.
And while Garrett was criticized for one for one of the ugliest on-field acts we’ve seen in the NFL, others felt that Rudolph — who was rocked in the head with his own helmet after it got pulled off — wasn’t getting enough blame for his involvement.
On Friday, Garrett was suspended indefinitely and at least for the rest of the season. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended three games and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi got one game.
Rudolph wasn’t punished at all.
NFL Network analysts critical of Mason Rudolph
NFL Network had former players David Carr, James Jones and Willie McGinest on after the Thursday night game to discuss the fight. And all three agreed that Rudolph was getting off too lightly.
On the play, Garrett took Rudolph down after Rudolph threw a pass. Garrett did not seem to know Rudolph got rid of the ball. Rudolph took exception, at one point grabbing and pulling at the back of Garrett’s helmet. That’s when the fight started.
"I really wanted to know what Myles Garrett was thinking, because we all can see Rudolph gets tackled and starts pulling off Garrett's helmet, and that's when Garrett lost it,” Jones, the former Packers receiver, said on NFLN. “Then at the end, the linemen are holding Myles Garrett back, and you see Rudolph rush him and that's how he reacted. No room for the way he reacted hitting another guy without a helmet, but I really wish a reporter would have said, 'What happened, why did you react that that way? Because obviously something triggered you to make you react that way?'"
Once Rudolph’s helmet came off, he went after Garrett, with some of his teammates in between them. That’s when Garrett swung the helmet. After the game, Rudolph called Garrett “cowardly” and “bush league.”
"Don't make it seem like another guy was a coward and it was bush league, you were in the fight. Whether it was wrong or right, you were in the fight,” McGinest, the former Patriots outside linebacker, said. “You started the fight by trying to pull off this man's helmet. Now, he finished it, and it wasn't the right way, but you still charged into the pile. When [Steelers guard David] DeCastro got in between you and Myles Garrett, you could have walked away and threw your hands up, not after you got hit with the helmet.
“So don't make it seem like it was all Myles Garrett, he did everything, he incited this whole situation. It was guilty parties on both teams. It's all inexcusable, but I don't like the way the picture is being painted like this is all created by one particular person. I'm not making excuses, but we do have to be honest about what we saw."
Carr, who played quarterback for a few teams and most notably the Houston Texans, backed McGinest.
"I completely agree,” Carr said on NFLN. “Obviously it escalated when Mason charged back into a situation where, there were two offensive linemen there holding Myles Garrett back. When Mason came in, that just escalated it and you got the helmet swing, which obviously no one is condoning, but that's kind of what happened.”
Deion Sanders blames Rudolph too
The NFL Network analysts weren’t the only ones chiming in to blame Rudolph — to make the night even more weird, O.J. Simpson got involved with his opinion — but it was a theme on their postgame coverage.
Deion Sanders, another NFL Network analyst, had the same take.
It’s a foregone conclusion that Garrett will get punished harshly by the NFL. Will Rudolph also get punished? If some of the league’s analysts have their way, the answer is yes.
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