AROUND THE NFL

Even as the House Intelligence Committee’s Democrat majority re-convenes its “impeachment inquiry,” the nation is focused like a laser on the NFL and a bizarre finish in Cleveland.

 

@robbystarbuck

In case you’re wondering how the new impeachment is going for Democrats… Our country is more interested in how Myles Garrett will be punished for hitting Mason Rudolph over the head with a helmet than it is with impeachment. Ban Myles for this season & next season.

 

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com with a succinct summary of the issue:

 

The Browns will need to get used to playing without defensive end Myles Garrett.

 

With only seconds left in Thursday night’s win over over Pittsburgh, Garrett ripped the helmet from Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and then struck Rudolph in the head with his own helmet.

 

It’s the most egregious single in-game incident since then-Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth stomped on the forehead of then-Cowboys center Andre Gurode, if not ever. Haynesworth received a five-game suspension for his infraction, a punishment imposed before the league had its player health and safety epiphany in 2009.

 

Garrett should be bracing for a significant suspension, one that should last at least through the balance of the regular season. Earlier this year, the league suspended Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict 12 games for his latest violation of safety rules.

 

Here’s the real question: Should Garrett be banished? It was, quite simply, an assault — an act for which he should, in theory, be prosecuted criminally. It happened beyond the confines of a football game, and if something like that happened on the street, Garrett currently would be in jail.

 

Garrett could have seriously injured Rudolph, or worse. It’s inexcusable, and the league must take serious and decisive action, immediately.

 

At a time when it has become more and more clear that Colin Kaepernick forfeited his NFL career for engaging in a peaceful protest prior to kickoff, it’s no stretch to argue that Garrett also should forfeit his. The behavior, as teammate Baker Mayfield already has said, is inexcusable. The question is whether it’s also unforgivable.

 

If it’s true that playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right, it should be.

 

Curtis Crabtree of ProFootballTalk.com with a closer look at event:

 

On one of the last snaps of the game, Myles Garrett was ejected from the game after ripping Rudolph’s helmet off and then swinging it and connecting with Rudolph’s skull as part of a melee that sullied the final moments. Steelers players came rushing to Rudolph’s defense and center Maurkice Pouncey took to kicking Garrett at the bottom of the pile. Browns defensive end Larry Ogunjobi also knocked Rudolph to the ground as well as benches cleared.

 

Rudolph had seemingly taken offense to Garrett pulling him to the turf long after he had gotten rid of the ball and began shoving Garrett on the ground when Garrett grabbed and removed Rudolph’s helmet as the two got to their feet. Rudolph then went to confront Garrett as David DeCastro tried to push Garrett away when the Browns defensive end drilled Rudolph in the head with his own helmet. Pouncey then came jumping in throwing punches at Garrett as he and DeCastro tumbled to the ground and Pouncey continued kicking Garrett.

 

Garrett, Ogunjobi and Pouncey were all three ejected from the game with eight seconds remaining. Fines and suspensions will almost certainly be coming against the trio.

 

We would expound that Garrett was engaged in bizarre anti-social behavior for a few seconds prior, tackling Rudolph late and then holding him down on the ground after the play.  Some, who instinctively are defending Garrett against a privileged quarterback, are saying that Rudolph must have said a word that would allow Garrett to retaliate with violence or that it was Rudolph who first tried to “rip off” the helmet of Garrett.

 

While we see Rudolph’s hands up near Garrett’s head as he tried to leverage the deranged Browns defender off of him, we do not see anything like a grasp or a rip.  We do see Garrett grab Rudolph’s facemask and rip the helmet off in a way that could have been dangerous even before he swung it at Rudolph’s exposed skull.

 

We also note that referee Clete Blakeman, usually one of the best, did watch the whole thing, but apparently he was not going to call Garrett for his late tackle and wrestling pin, only throwing the flag after the helmet was ripped off.

 

Late Add – there is some evidence, perhaps photo shopped, that as Rudolph twisted away from Garrett his foot may have found an uncomfortable area on Rudolph.  That has led to tweets like this:

 

@cldelisandwich

Why is Rudolph being perceived as just a victim? That dude tried ripping

@Myles

 head off and kicked him in the bag… #masonrudolph #MylesGarrett

 

This from Mike Pereira:

 

@MikePereira

Still depressed about witnessing the end of last night’s game. It taints our great game of football. To me, in terms of severity, it brings back memories of Haynesworth in 2006. You are now likely to hear these three names in the same sentence: Haynesworth, Burfict, and Garrett.

 

Garrett admits he messed up in the postgame:

 

Myles Garrett did not seem immediately to grasp exactly how bad his actions were Thursday night.

 

No one was talking about the Browns’ victory but about the team’s star defensive player swinging Mason Rudolph‘s helmet at the quarterback’s head.

 

“A win’s a win. I don’t think it’s overshadowed by what happened in eight seconds,” Garrett told reporters in the locker room.

 

Garrett refused to talk about what set him off. Replays showed that Rudolph tried to rip off Garrett’s helmet before trying to kick him.

 

Nothing Rudolph did or said, though, would have excused Garrett’s reaction.

 

Officials ejected Garrett; the NFL will suspend him, perhaps for the rest of the season; and his reputation is forever gone.

 

Garrett will wear a scarlet letter as a dirty player the rest of his career.

 

The former No. 1 overall pick didn’t seem to understand the severity of his actions.

 

“I made a mistake; I lost my cool,” Garrett said. “It’s going to come back to hurt our team. The guys who jumped in the scrum, I appreciate my teammates having my back, but it shouldn’t have gotten that far. That’s on me.”

 

Garrett said “no clue” when asked how long he expected to be suspended. Here’s a guess: Longer than he expects.

 

Mike Florio points out that Garrett’s bizarre behavior did not happen in a vacuum.  The Browns had already received an ejection and numerous personal foul penalties.

 

Thursday night’s game ended with an alarming, unprecedented incident, with a player removing another player’s helmet and striking him with it. The full set of circumstances has some in the league wondering whether something more troubling was going on.

 

A high-level source with another team, who spoke on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the subject and league rules that prohibit the public criticism of other teams, had this to say about the situation: “If the league is serious, they should fine Browns $5 million and fine [coach Freddie Kitchens] $500,000.  That was like a bounty game.  There were so many unnecessary flagrant hits, and then the cherry on top.”

 

While Myles Garrett‘s misbehavior will receive most of the attention, other illegal hits happened. Defensive back Damarious Randall applied an illegal hit to Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson, resulting in an ejection — and images of Johnson having blood running from his ear. Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster also suffered a concussion during the game, courtesy of a pair of helmet-to-helmet hits at a time when he was in a defenseless posture. (No flag was thrown.)

 

The Browns have played an undisciplined brand of football all year long. During training camp, the Browns engaged in joint practice with the Colts. Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens said after a session that featured multiple fights that “we’re not going to back down to anybody.” Kitchens grew angry at having those words read back to him after Thursday night’s game, insisting that he doesn’t coach penalties.

 

Maybe he doesn’t coach penalties, but it would be interesting to know what the coaching staff did to get Cleveland’s players sufficiently cranked up for Thursday night’s game to result in an ejection for an illegal hit, another illegal hit that wasn’t called, and ultimately the Myles Garrett incident. While Kitchens surely never told Garrett or anyone else to remove a player’s helmet and hit him with it, it’s Kitchens’ team. He lays down the law. He says what is and isn’t acceptable. And whatever messages he and his staff communicated prior to Thursday night’s game helped set the stage for what unfolded.

 

Consider this, from Jeremy Fowler of ESPN: “Myles Garrett completely lost it, connected the helmet square on Mason Rudolph’s head. And the Browns were celebrating the whole thing from the sideline.” (Emphasis added.)

 

“The burden starts with the coach/G.M. and culture,” our source said. “The players are the students. If the players don’t learn, you need to question the teaching.”

 

Kitchens has admitted that he’s still learning on the job. Apparently, he hasn’t learned how to strike the right balance between getting his players sufficiently motivated for a big game against a division rival and ensuring that they don’t cross the line. The best evidence for that conclusion is that Garrett and others crossed the line.

 

Thus, as the NFL decides what to do about Garrett, the NFL also should consider whether it needs to investigate methods utilized by Kitchens to get his team ready to play. Although Garrett ultimately is responsible for his own actions, Kitchens is also responsible for the things his players do.

 

Fowler’s tweet is especially troubling.  Not sure why anyone would have a camera on the Browns bench at the time, but is there video evidence?

 

More reactions.

 

Dan Orlovsky

 

@danorlovsky7

1) Very thankful Rudolph is ok

2) Myles Garrett should not play in the #NFL for the rest of the season, & that’s the minimum. DONT EMBARRASS THE SHIELD

3) He should have criminal charges pressed on him

4) The Haslam Family should take it upon themselves before Goodell does.

 

Daniel Valente

@StatsGuyDaniel

– Roughing the passer helmet hit on Mason Rudolph

– Helmet to helmet hit on JuJu Smith-Schuster

– Helmet to helmet hit on Diontae Johnson

– Myles Garrett swings a helmet at Rudolph’s head

– Larry Ogunjobi comes in with a cheap shot on Rudolph

 

Browns are out of control.

 

Shannon Sharpe

 

@undisputed

“You snatch a guy’s helmet off, take the helmet and hit the guy in the head. At the bare minimum, Myles Garrett’s gone for the rest of the year. Now if it was me doling out the discipline, I’m going to bleed it into next year. I’m giving him a total of 10.” —

@ShannonSharpe

 

Does this person think the NFL will not be as harsh on Garrett because his victim was just Mason Rudolph?  Or does he think the NFL, already with a history of undue harshness towards the New England QB, would let Garrett off easy…

 

@DannyGregory18

Just think if @MylesLGarrett  would have hit @TomBrady with a helmet. How would you think the league would handle that?

 

Here is Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, that site’s referee expert.

 

On Thursday night, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett committed the closest thing we’ve seen to an on-field crime in the modern era of pro football. Only one response will suffice. The NFL must issue the longest suspension for a single on-field act in its history, ending Garrett’s 2019 season with six games remaining on the Browns’ schedule and making clear to the world that what happened at FirstEnergy Stadium is one of the worst moments on the field in its history.

 

Such discipline, as harsh as it might seem, won’t be particularly controversial to anyone who saw Garrett rip off Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph’s helmet and then use it to pummel his unprotected head. If Garrett hit someone with a helmet on the streets of Cleveland, he would face arrest. The outburst left grizzled football veterans gasping at its sheer violence, a throwback matched by only a handful — if any — of intentional acts in 100 years of league play.

 

The length of Garrett’s absence shouldn’t be too tough for the NFL to figure out. It suspended Oakland Raiders linebacker Vontaze Burfict indefinitely earlier this season for an accumulation of on-field acts, culminating with a helmet-to-helmet hit, but the longest suspension it has issued for a single on-field incident is five games. That happened in 2006 when then-Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth ripped the helmet off Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode and then kicked and stomped on his face. Gurode needed 30 stitches to close the wounds.

 

Rudolph was lucky to avoid a similar fate, or worse. The stunned expression on the face of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, speaking moments later in an interview on Fox, depicted the weight of the scene. Mayfield couldn’t summon an ounce of defense for his teammate.

 

“It’s inexcusable,” he said. “That’s just endangering the other team. … The reality is he is going to get suspended. We don’t know how long, and that hurts our team.”

 

Don’t forget that Rudolph was knocked unconscious last month by a hit to his helmet and missed one game. The contact from that blow, initiated by Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas III, was so severe that Rudolph’s eyes were closed before he hit the ground. If you knew that context, you were surely cringing as you saw Garrett bash Rudolph’s head, topped off by Browns defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi pushing Rudolph to the ground from behind. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey then entered the fray, kicking and punching Garrett and escalating the scene to a point where it wouldn’t have been surprising to see police officers on the field. (Rudolph did pull at Garrett’s helmet while both were on the ground, but that bit of aggressiveness hardly merited the response.)

 

“I lost my cool, and I regret it,” Garrett said afterward. Rudolph called it “cowardly” and “bush league” after the game. But I’m sorry, using normal words to describe a singular act of violence risks assimilating it into all the other dirty and unsportsmanlike plays we’ve seen in football.

 

This was worse than Chuck Bednarik’s knockout of Frank Gifford in 1960. It was worse than Jack Tatum’s hit on Darryl Stingley in 1978, one that ultimately left Stingley paralyzed. Those plays, the first two that come to mind in the NFL’s history of on-field violence, were part of the flow of game action. Bednarik clotheslined Gifford in a tackle technique that was not uncommon in that era. Tatum lined up a hit to the head of Stingley, who was stretching for the ball in what would now be considered a defenseless position.

 

They were violent, unnecessary and exceedingly damaging. Garrett’s absurdity, on the other hand, came after the whistle, outside of any semblance of competition.

 

There are few precedents in NFL history that come close to matching it. Haynesworth’s stomp is one. In 2013, Antonio Smith ripped off the helmet of Richie Incognito and swung it close to his face. For that, Smith was suspended for three games. In 1954, according to pro football historian Dan Daly, Colts defensive end Don Joyce hit Rams linebacker Les Richter with a helmet, for which he was ejected but not suspended.

 

That, of course, was 65 years ago.

 

The NFL should be eager to demonstrate its mettle at a time when it has never been more cognizant of and responsive to brain health. There should be little debate Friday at the league headquarters in New York City. Commissioner Roger Goodell should want the world to know how exceptional this situation is. Football can’t be like this anymore.

 

But the truth is that it has rarely — if ever — been like this. The NFL’s punishment should reflect that sobering fact.

 

NFC EAST

 

PHILADELPHIA

Eagles RB DAREN SPROLES is done for the season – and, in all likelihood, his career.  Tim McManus of ESPN.com:

 

Eagles running back Darren Sproles is out for the remainder of the season with a torn right hip flexor, the team announced Friday.

 

Meanwhile, starting running back Jordan Howard is dealing with a shoulder “stinger” suffered late in a Week 9 win over the Chicago Bears. He has not yet been cleared for contact, according to coach Doug Pederson.

 

With a pair of backs ailing, the Eagles brought a familiar face — Jay Ajayi — in for a visit Friday.

 

“We’ll see where he’s at physically, conditioning, see where he’s at healthwise,” Pederson said of Ajayi.

 

Pederson did not discount the idea of Ajayi not only signing but also playing this weekend against the New England Patriots.

 

AFC NORTH

 

CLEVELAND

Before DE MYLES GARRETT exploded, the Browns had already lost a defender for the season.  Kevin Patra of NFL.com:

 

The Cleveland Browns could be without a key defender for the rest of the season.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that safety Morgan Burnett is believed to have suffered a torn Achilles in Thursday night’s 21-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, per a source informed of the situation.

 

Burnett is expected to have an MRI on Friday. If the test confirms the diagnosis, Burnett would be out for the season.

 

Losing the veteran safety for the season would be a big blow to the Browns — in addition to whatever penalty the league hands down to Myles Garrett– who are scraping to remain in the playoff hunt down the stretch.

 

AFC SOUTH

 

HOUSTON

Somehow, we forgot about this yesterday:

 

The Houston Texans claimed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves off waivers Wednesday, the team announced.

 

Hargreaves was released by the Bucs on Tuesday after he was benched last weekend for what coach Bruce Arians deemed a lack of hustle.

 

It is the latest move by the Texans to bolster their secondary. They acquired Gareon Conley from the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 21 in exchange for a third-round pick. Conley was selected in the first round of the 2017 draft; Hargreaves was a first-round pick in 2016.

 

Hargreaves, 24, joins a secondary that has been dealing with injuries for much of the season. Veteran cornerback Johnathan Joseph has been playing through shoulder and neck injuries, and cornerback Bradley Roby has missed the Texans’ past three games with a hamstring injury. Rookie corner Lonnie Johnson also missed Week 9 with a concussion.

 

The Texans have allowed 277.3 passing yards per game, which ranks 29th in the NFL.

 

Hargreaves, the 11th overall pick in 2016, was the Bucs’ top cornerback heading into this season.

 

Although he posted an interception in Week 1 and made a game-saving tackle on Christian McCaffrey on a goal-line stand in Week 2, Hargreaves, who was expected to be a leader, appeared to lack focus at times.

 

The Texans also waived cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun from the active roster.

 

 

THIS AND THAT

 

 

ANTONIO BROWN

Sources, perhaps with an agenda, are saying WR ANTONIO BROWN actually did well when confronted by NFL Justice.  ESPN.com:

 

Wide receiver Antonio Brown’s meeting Thursday with the NFL to address sexual assault allegations against him lasted about eight hours, and there could be follow-ups before a decision is made about his future, a source told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

 

The meeting took place in Florida. Brown has denied the allegations.

 

The NFL had three representatives at the interview, which was led by Lisa Friel, the source said. Friel is the NFL’s senior vice president/special counsel for investigations.

 

The source said Brown felt it went well, and that he was responsive to the NFL’s questions.

 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that barring a significant turn of events, Brown is not expected to play again this season, according to sources.

 

Brown, 31, is being investigated by the NFL under its personal conduct policy following a lawsuit filed by his former trainer, Britney Taylor, that alleges she was sexually assaulted by Brown on multiple occasions. Brown also was accused of sexual misconduct at his home by an artist who was working there in 2017.

 

Brown has officially been served lawsuit papers from Taylor, sources told ESPN, and has hired attorney Camille Blanton to handle his case.

 

Brown has played in only one game this season — Week 2 against the Dolphins. He was released by the Oakland Raiders before the season and by the New England Patriots before Week 3, after it was made known that he sent text messages to the artist who accused him of misconduct.

 

Brown has filed eight grievances against the Raiders and Patriots, a source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano. Brown is seeking $39.775 million in lost salary, bonuses and guaranteed money.

 

 

KAEP

Hue Jackson, the erstwhile Browns coach, and Joe Philbin will be there with Colin Kaepernick on Saturday to orchestrate his NFL-mandated workout. 

 

We thought this was a very funny tweet if you know the bond between NFL.com writer Michael Silver and Jackson.

 

@BenjaminSolak

“While most league attendees were not impressed with Kaepernick, a source told me teams loved the way Hue Jackson managed the workout. Thought he looked motivated, presidential, and slim. Could prove a sleeper HC candidate in 2020.”

 

-Mike Silver, Saturday evening.