Myles Garrett claims he was called a racial slur before helmet attack; indefinite suspension upheld

The NFL's indefinite suspension of Cleveland Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett for smashing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph over the head with a helmet last week has been upheld.

At Wednesday's appeal hearing in New York, ESPN reports the standout from Arlington Martin High School and Texas A&M claimed Rudolph called him a racial slur before the helmet hit.

Rudolph strongly denied the accusation and called it a total lie. An NFL spokesman said the league looked into Garrett's claim and "found no such evidence."

Reporters asked several Browns players about Garrett's new claim. So far, no one says they heard Rudolph say anything of that nature.

Garrett is banned for the final six regular-season games and playoffs. His loss is a significant setback to the Browns, who are trying to end a postseason drought dating to 2002.

Garrett 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.

Quarterback Mason Rudolph #2 of the Pittsburgh Steelers fights with defensive end Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns during the second half at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 14, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 21-7.

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.

Daniel Wallach is a sports law attorney not involved in the case.

“What militates against his favor in this is that he didn't report it to the NFL. He didn't report it to the team. He didn't say anything in the public eye and that it didn't come up until the disciplinary proceeding,” Wallach said. “So that is a harmful fact, but it does not negate the possibility that that kind of a statement was made.”

And while Garrett could take legal action to further his appeals, Wallach says it could be better to simply own up to it.

“I would think rehabilitating his image and showing contrition would be a loftier and more important goal for him than arguing with the NFL in court,” Wallach said.

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, where the atmosphere is intense for every game between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended one game for shoving a helmet-less Rudolph to the ground. Thrash upheld his suspension on Wednesday.

Several players from both teams are expected to be fined for leaving their respective sidelines as the officials tried to restore order during the game's chaotic ending. Those penalties will be released Saturday.

The Browns and Steelers organizations were each fined $250,000 for their roles in the incident. Both released statements stating regret.

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.

The Browns visit the Steelers on Dec. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.