Myles Garrett spent Friday morning apologizing.
To his teammates in a meeting at Browns headquarters. And to Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph, fans and the NFL in a statement.
“He understands the magnitude of what occurred last night,” coach Freddie Kitchens said Friday on a conference call. “He is very remorseful. He understands that he let himself down, he let his teammates down and he let his organization down.”
Garrett will have the rest of the season to think about what he’s done.
The Pro Bowl defensive end and No. 1 draft pick in 2017 was suspended by the NFL indefinitely without pay. The suspension will go through at least the remainder of the season, including the playoffs.
The punishment came about 12 hours after an ugly brawl that tarnished a 21-7 victory over the Steelers. Garrett ripped the helmet off Rudolph and bashed him on the top of the head with it.
Garrett, who will forfeit $1.14 million in salary and was fined an undisclosed amount, must meet with the commissioner’s office before a decision on reinstatement. The fewest number of games he would miss are the final six in the regular season.
The NFL said he violated the unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules, as well as fighting and removing an opponent’s helmet and using it as a weapon. He’s not permitted to be around the team during the suspension.
“Last night, I made a terrible mistake,” Garrett said in the statement. “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.”
Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended a game without pay ($48,000) and fined for shoving Rudolph to the ground.
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey was suspended three games without pay ($176,000) and fined for punching and kicking Garrett while he was on the ground. He’ll miss the rematch in Pittsburgh on Dec. 1.
Other players will be disciplined for their roles in the fight, including leaving the sideline. Rudolph reportedly will be fined.
The Browns and Steelers organizations were each fined $250,000 and released statements of regret. The amounts of the player fines will be released next weekend.
“We are extremely disappointed in what transpired last evening at the end of our game,” Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam said. “There is no place for that in football and that is not reflective of the core values we strive for as an organization. We sincerely apologize to Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Myles Garrett has been a good teammate and member of our organization and community for the last three years but his actions last night were completely unacceptable. We understand the consequences from the league for his actions.”
The players have three business days to appeal and are expected to do so.
The punishment is the worst in NFL history for a one-time on-field incident. Former Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was suspended a then-NFL-record five games in 2006 for stomping on the face of Cowboys center Andre Gurode.
Rudolph’s agent, Tim Younger, had considered legal action against Garrett but it won’t be pursued, according to multiple reports.
Kitchens said he met with Garrett for a long time before the suspension came down.
“We look at our team as a family, and in a family, sometimes family members make mistakes,” Kitchens said. “You support them in every way that you can, even if it is an egregious mistake. We know who Myles is a as person. We know who Myles is and the character that Myles has, and that is under no circumstance what he wants to be portrayed as.
“We will support him. He will learn from it. Our team will learn from it and become better because of it.”
Left guard Joel Bitonio relayed Garrett’s apology to the team.
“He says that he is going to prove to us that it was just one incident on his radar and that he is going to strive every day to be a better person and show us that that is not his true character and that he feels like he had let us down obviously because he is not going to be out there with us on gamedays,” he said.
The loss of Garrett is a huge blow to a Browns defense that played its best game against the Steelers, holding them to seven points and 236 yards. He’s considered the best player on the defense and will be sorely missed as the Browns (4-6) try to make history and reach the playoffs after starting 2-6.
“Of course, it is hard, but I think we have the men in the room to accept the challenge,” Kitchens said. “There will not be any excuses. We will have 11 out on the field, and those 11 will be expected to do their job.”
Olivier Vernon, the other starting end, has missed the last two games with a knee injury and it’s too early to say if he’ll be back Nov. 24 when the Browns host the Dolphins. Chad Thomas has filled in for Vernon, with Chris Smith and starting tackle Sheldon Richardson also getting more time at end.
With Ogunjobi out for the Dolphins game, general manager John Dorsey may have to make a roster move along the line.
“It is tough. He was playing like a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate and that is what I think everyone knows him as,” Bitonio said of Garrett. “He is a guy that gets after the quarterback, plays the run well. He is a great player.”
The Browns were about to improve to 2-0 in the AFC North for the first time since it was formed in 2002 as the Steelers faced third-and-29 at their 17-yard line with 14 seconds left.
Rudolph dumped a short pass to running back Trey Edmunds, and Garrett took Rudolph to the ground well after the ball had been released. Rudolph took exception, the two wrestled and Rudolph tried unsuccessfully to pull Garrett’s helmet off. He also pushed Garrett off of him with his right foot in Garrett’s groin.
Garrett succeeded in his subsequent attempt to remove Rudolph’s helmet. And after they were separated, Rudolph charged at Garrett, who swung the helmet and connected on top of the head. Pouncey went after Garrett, and Ogunjobi shoved Rudolph to the ground.
Garrett, Ogunjobi and Pouncey were ejected.
Kitchens didn’t offer an opinion on whether Rudolph should’ve been suspended.
“We know what we saw, and I really do not think there is any benefit to me sharing my feelings on any of that,” he said.