It’s been more than a year since Myles Garrett and Mason Rudolph interacted in an ugly fashion, but with the two again taking the same field that saw them start a late-game brawl, their history is in the spotlight.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Rudolph was asked about Garrett on Friday.
The backup quarterback will make his first start of 2020 against Garrett’s Browns while the Steelers rest Ben Roethlisberger with the AFC North crown already wrapped up.
Rudolph and Garrett found themselves in a fight at the end of Cleveland’s Thursday night win over Pittsburgh in Week 11 of 2019, with Garrett eventually removing Rudolph’s helmet and hitting the quarterback with it as the two were engaged. Garrett was suspended indefinitely among the punishment from the NFL that also saw multiple other players suspended and both teams fined.
Garrett has rebounded from the disgraceful early finish to the 2019 season, playing well in 2020 and avoiding any further issues. He has not attempted to mend fences with Rudolph, according to the quarterback.
“He has not reached out to me in any capacity,” Rudolph told Steelers reporters Friday, via Cleveland.com. “I’m happy to hear Myles out. If he wants to approach me, wants to talk.”
In the aftermath of the brawl, Garrett told ESPN Rudolph called Garrett a racial slur, an allegation Rudolph has consistently denied. Both players and teams appeared to have moved on from the incident — until Friday’s media sessions.
“It’s not me versus him,” Garrett said, via ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “If he wants to talk after the game or before the game, let it come naturally.”
The Browns can end their 17-year playoff drought with a win over the Steelers on Sunday, while Pittsburgh can send Cleveland to another January spent at home with a win. Rudolph has an opportunity to lead them to such a result, while also potentially proving to the Steelers’ front office that he can be the long-term successor to Roethlisberger.
Rudolph downplayed the latter opportunity, and noted the game itself is more important than a lingering conflict with an individual.
“This game is too big to worry about anything external that happened [a year] ago,” Rudolph said.
The game will begin with Garrett walking out as a team captain for the Browns, a role rookie head coach Kevin Stefanski has appointed on a weekly basis. Stefanski told reporters his choice of Garrett for Sunday’s game has nothing to do with Rudolph, per the Akron Beacon Journal.
His play will likely have a lot to do with whether the Browns return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Perhaps then we can leave the 2019 conflict in the past.
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