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Myles Garrett Isn't a Monster, And the NFL Commentariat Has Lost Perspective

CLEVELAND, OHIO - NOVEMBER 14: 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.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns | Jason Miller/Getty Images

Three players ejected, a commentariat up in arms, lengthy – seriously lengthy – bans incoming. Just another Thursday night in the NFL. 

In case you missed it, Myles Garrett sacked Mason Rudolph in the dying seconds of the Browns' 21-7 win over the Steelers, and after a little confrontation on the floor tried to hit the QB with his own helmet, landing one solid hit and sparking an almighty brawl. 

Here's the question: so freaking what? 

Garrett, the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and on a Browns team which is having their 17th consecutive season from hell, got too hyped up on a dead play and did something stupid. Nobody's arguing that there's a Nobel Prize coming for this play. But could we stop with the hand-wringing for half a second?

Garrett? Stupid, emotional move. But the Steelers who laid into him immediately afterwards, particularly Maurkice Pouncey with his overarm punches and kicks to a prone body, are culpable of the exact same thing. That's a ban of a game or two as well, fair's fair. 

The problem comes where commentators and fans of a sport which (allegedly) blackballs people for speaking out on issues of racial violence, and which dishes out concussions left, right and centre as a matter of course, treats this as an egregious violation of the code

This is a league in which the majority of players accept crushing head injuries as a matter of course, in which a quarterback – in the same season he'd been suspended in relation to sexual assault allegations – played in the Super Bowl. A league in which Vontaze Burfict could play despite being fined for more than a dozen incidents of dirty, dangerous play. 

Burfict has finally picked up a season-long ban on the Raiders, the correct punishment for a flagrant hit, but the fact that he'd been allowed to accumulate a baker's dozen of fines and suspensions in seven years on the Bengals speaks to the values of the league when it comes to violence. Endanger your fellow player – within certain parameters.

The hand-wringing over Garrett's moment of hot-blooded idiocy is sensible...removed from the context of the National Football League. But in the context of a league in which concussed or severely injured players are just "shaken up on the play," the hand-wringing becomes absurd. This is a league which lives and dies on violence. Someone breaks the code on exactly which kind of violence is acceptable, and now he's a pariah? He's going to be out for the rest of the season? Be serious. 

What he did wasn't football. It wasn't a football move, it was unacceptable, and he should be banned for a (small) number of games – not least because this isn't his first moment of unpleasantness this season (see: Walker, Delanie). But the fact that optics of the situation were so shocking shouldn't dictate the punishment.

Fans haven't seen anything like it. Commentators and columnists haven't seen anything like it. But what they have seen is helmet-to-helmet hits, late hits, cheap shots on the sideline and the line, each and every week. The NFL has desensitised its audience to the outlandish violence inherent in the game, which – to be fair – it has to in order to be a watchable product. But this this wasn't an unusual amount of violence, it was just an unusual delivery of it. Just because it's new, doesn't mean it's worse.

Suspensions for breaking 'the code' of violent, punishing games are miles out of proportion. Get ready for another Myles out of proportion reaction soon.