Garrett’s suspension for helmet attack upheld after appeal

Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett leaves an office building in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Garrett is in New York for an appeals hearing to try to get the NFL to reduce an indefinite suspension that has temporarily ended Garrett’s season and tarnished his career. Garrett was banned last week for the rest of the regular season and playoffs for violently striking Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

CLEVELAND — Myles Garrett’s goal was to be NFL’s top defensive player this season. He won’t finish it.

Garrett’s indefinite suspension for smashing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with a helmet was upheld Thursday by an appeals officer who decided the severe penalty on the Cleveland Browns star defensive end is fair.

One of the league’s most dominant edge rushers, Garrett is banned for the final six regular-season games and playoffs — if Cleveland qualifies — for pulling off Rudolph’s helmet and cracking him with it in the closing seconds of the Browns’ 21-7 win over their AFC North rival last week.

On Wednesday, Garrett attended his appeals hearing in New York and made his case to former player James Thrash for a reduction of his penalty, which will damage Cleveland’s season and stain the 24-year-old’s budding career.

Thrash didn’t find enough compelling evidence to lessen Garrett’s punishment, which will keep him off the field until 2020 — at the earliest.

As part of his historic suspension for using his helmet “as a weapon,” Garrett must also meet with Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office before he can be reinstated. He’s been fined $45,623.

Appeals officer Derrick Brooks, a Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker, did reduce the suspension for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey from three games to two for punching and kicking Garrett following the shocking assault on Rudolph, who earlier this week said he “should have done a better job keeping my composure in that situation.”

Brooks also upheld a $35,096 fine for Pouncey, who will miss the Steelers’ rematch with the Browns on Dec. 1 at Heinz Field.

Garrett’s violent act — he pulled Rudolph’s helmet off and clobbered him with it — on national TV and its aftermath have been a dominant topic since it happened. The story took a new twist when ESPN, using anonymous sources, first reported that Garrett told the league during his meeting with Thrash that Rudolph used a racial slur just before the brawl erupted.

Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said Rudolph “vehemently denies” the report. Rudolph had been scheduled to speak to reporters after practice but declined shortly after the report surfaced.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league investigated Garrett’s claim and “found no such evidence.”

Garrett will lose $1.14 million in salary and his absence is a significant setback to the Browns (4-6), who will be without their best defensive player as they try to end a postseason drought dating to 2002.

The suspension is the longest issued for a single on-field behavior. Tennessee defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was suspended five games in 2006 for stomping on the face Cowboys center Andre Gurode in 2006.

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