Whatever happens moving forward between Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, one thing is clear: Myles Garrett has told a story that he'll have to own, if/when Rudolph files a defamation lawsuit.
In last week's ESPN interview, which came only one day Garrett was reinstated by the NFL, Garrett locked in his own future testimony, if/when there's a reason to testify.
"I go to take him down, he says some words as we're going down," Garrett said.
The video of the incident suggests a much more simple explanation for the provocation. Rudolph tried to remove Garrett's helmet. Garrett didn't like that, so he tried to remove Rudolph's helmet. And succeeded. Then, when Rudolph charged at Garrett without a helmet, Garrett swung the helmet and struck Rudolph in the head.
So why is Garrett claiming that he heard a slur from Rudolph amid the scrum that played out? Without semi-plausible justification for Garrett's extreme reaction, Garrett basically becomes the new Vontaze Burfict - a reckless rule-breaker who plays beyond the limits of the game and who has a short fuse. By claiming that Rudolph used a slur, Garrett's explosion makes more sense.
What doesn't make sense is Garrett's attempt to explain the absence of audio evidence of the slur.
"Most quarterbacks wear mics in their helmets," Garrett said. (They don't. They wear speakers in their helmets.) "He somehow lost his helmet and had to get another one without a mic."
Again, quarterback helmets never have microphones. And the notion that Rudolph "lost his helmet" is flat-out false (unless Garrett is referring to the moment when he removed Rudolph's helmet from his head). It's clear from the TV broadcast that Rudolph had his helmet - with a number 2 decal inside the front and back stripe and the green dot that signifies the presence of a speaker (not microphone) inside the helmet.
"There were guys who were mic'd up near me, near us in that time who didn't hear anything," Garrett added. "From what I've heard there've been audio in that game that could have heard something or could not have heard something. But they don't want to say. So something was said. I know something was said. Now, whether the NFL wants to acknowledge it, it's up to them."
The NFL has made it clear that any microphones on the uniforms of nearby players did not record audio. But, again, that shouldn't get in the way of Garrett's effort to prevent himself from developing a Burfictian reputation.
"I don't want to make it a racial thing, honestly," Garrett said. "It's over with for me. And I'm pretty sure it's over with for Mason."
I'll agree that Garrett doesn't want to make it a racial thing. Garrett simply wants to make his behavior seem rational and reasonable, even if it means painting Rudolph as a racist in the process. But here's the thing: If the use of a slur had made Garrett livid enough to hit Rudolph over the head with his own helmet with only nine seconds on the clock, wouldn't Garrett have been still upset when speaking at his locker after the game? He wasn't. He was calm and cool as he calmly explained that he lost his cool.
I'll disagree that it's over with for Mason. His lawyer has rattled the sword of litigation. Even if a lawsuit is never filed, the issue isn't over. The next question is whether Rudolph decides to proceed with the filing of a lawsuit.