The NFL discovered no evidence to corroborate Myles Garrett's claim that Mason Rudolph used a racial slur before the fight toward the end of the Cleveland Browns' 21-7 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 14, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy confirmed to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network.
Garrett made the allegation at his suspension appeal hearing Wednesday, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson and Adam Schefter.
Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten denied the allegation in a statement: "Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland. He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals."
The legal firm that represents Rudolph also disputed the allegation: "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."
Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens addressed the situation as well Thursday:
ESPN's Jake Trotter shared responses from Garrett's teammates Baker Mayfield and Sheldon Richardson:
Odell Beckham Jr. also said he hadn't been made aware of the allegation before Thursday, per Keith Britton of 92.3 The Fan: "I'm kind of just hearing it all. Myles hasn't been in the building. That's what the appeal process is for. We all support Myles. Just praying there's a resolution for what's going on."
Brooke Pryor of ESPN provided comments from Steelers offensive tackle Matt Feiler and defensive end Cam Heyward:
Garrett met with NFL representatives Wednesday as part of his appeal after being suspended indefinitely for the brawl.
When Garrett said during the appeal Rudolph used a racial slur, "It created an argumentative exchange between both sides about whether the allegation was permissible," per Anderson and Schefter. They added that "appeals officer James Thrash remained stoic and took copious notes" as Garrett told his side.
With seconds remaining in the Browns' win, Garrett hit Rudolph and brought him to the ground, and Rudolph appeared to grab at Garrett's helmet. Garrett responded by ripping Rudolph's helmet off and swinging it at him as they continued arguing.
Rudolph after the game said it was "bush league" and a "total coward move."
Garrett issued an apology a day later saying he "made a terrible mistake."
Rudolph spoke on the matter again Wednesday, apologizing for his role in the brawl and telling reporters he didn't do or say anything immediately preceding Garrett hitting him with the helmet.
Following the fight, the NFL suspended Garrett for at least the remainder of the 2019 season. Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey received a three-game suspension as well and Browns defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi was suspended for one game.
The NFL announced Thursday it upheld Garrett's indefinite suspension while reducing Pouncey's ban to two games.
Anderson and Schefter reported the league is expected to fine Rudolph, who didn't receive a suspension, and that he "would comply with whatever the league hands out."