Through a Steelers spokesman, quarterback Mason Rudolph last week denied speaking a racial slur to Browns defensive end Myles Garrett and igniting the brawl at the end of Pittsburgh's Week 11 game in Cleveland. On Sunday, soon after he was benched in Cincinnati due to poor play, Rudolph faced questions about the allegation for the first time since it surfaced.
"It's totally untrue. I couldn't believe it," Rudolph said. Garrett, in his appeal of an indefinite suspension by the NFL, claimed Rudolph uttered the slur. "I couldn't believe that he would go that route after the fact. It is what it is. I think I moved on. One day it was tough. Moved on. We're good now."
Pressed on whether Garrett might have heard something that, as the reporter asking the question put it, could have been left to interpretation and deemed a racial slur, Rudolph responded: "Absolutely not. There was nothing. Not even close."
Mason Rudolph on Myles Garrett’s accusation he used a racial slur in the Cleveland fight:
“It’s totally untrue. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he would go that route after the fact.” pic.twitter.com/5PvYFcNtzg
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) November 24, 2019
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN last week that the league "found no such evidence" when it investigated whether Rudolph directed a slur toward Garrett at any point of the brawl, during which Garrett ripped off Rudolph's helmet and hit the QB with it, earning the Pro Bowl pass-rusher his suspension.
MORE STEELERS-BROWNS BRAWL: A complete list of suspensions and fines
In a statement issued hours after his claim of a slur was reported by ESPN, Garrett defended himself: "I was assured that the hearing was space that afforded the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about the incident that led to my suspension. This was not meant for public dissemination, nor was it a convenient attempt to justify my actions or restore my image in the eyes of those I disappointed.
"I know what I heard. Whether my opponent's comment was born out of frustration or ignorance, I cannot say. But his actions do not excuse my lack of restraint in the moment, and I truly regret the impact this has had on the league, the Browns and our devoted fans."
Rudolph's attorney, Timothy M. Younger, added on Thursday: "According to ESPN, in his appeal, Myles Garrett falsely asserted that Mason Rudolph uttered a racial slur toward him, prior to swinging a helmet at Mason's uncovered head, in a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. This is a lie. This false allegation was never asserted by Garrett in the aftermath of the game, never suggested prior to the hearing, and conspicuously absent in the apology published by the Browns and adopted by Garrett.
"The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason's integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday. This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment."
Garrett received the harshest punishment of anybody involved in the brawl. The third-year Browns defender's suspension will keep him out of the team's final six games of the 2019 season and any potential postseason games. The NFL decided to uphold the suspension despite the appeal by Garrett, who had a meeting with the commissioner's office Nov. 20. Garrett was also fined $45,623.
Rudolph was not suspended but received a $50,000 fine for his role in the fight.