The Severity of NFL Punishments


Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Mason Rudolph of the Pittsburgh Steelers fights with defensive end Myles Garrett of the Cleveland Browns.

Kathy Ryan, Writer

In the last ten seconds of the NFL’s Thursday Night Football game between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 14, 2019, Pittsburgh Quarterback Mason Rudolph threw a short pass to running back Trey Edmunds. A Cleveland defensive end, Myles Garrett, rushed Rudolph to the ground and the two started to grapple with each other. Pittsburgh offensive tackle Matt Fieler and guard David Decastro both engaged, trying to tear Garrett off of Rudolph. Matters escalated when Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet and used it as a weapon to hit him, swinging at his head. After being struck, Rudolph walked away with his hands in the air looking for a referee while Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey began punching Garrett’s helmet. Cleveland defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi then got himself involved and pushed Rudolph down from behind. The fight was broken up by teammates and referees, while Garrett, Pouncey, and Ogunjobi were all ejected from the game. The Cleveland Browns pulled off a 21-7 win.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Troy Vincent, NFL’s Head of Football Operations, has been looking at the brawl from all angles in order to decide who was involved and who to punish. The four main perpetrators were Garrett, Ogunjobi, Rudolph, and Pouncey, who are all receiving fines for their actions.  In addition to the fines, Garrett will be facing a season-long suspension without pay, Ogunjobi is suspended for one game without pay, and Pouncey is suspended for three games without pay. Rudolph, on the other hand, is only being fined due to his attempt to take of Garrett’s helmet and for kicking him in the groin area. All three players appealed their suspensions. The Cleveland and Pittsburgh organizations as a whole are also being fined for their players’ wrongdoings.

According to, “Vincent stressed the league fined both teams $250,000 because the actions of their players falls on them”. 

Garrett issued an apology to Rudolph in a statement through the Browns’ Twitter, writing, “Last night, I made a terrible mistake. I lost my cool and what I did was selfish and unacceptable. I know that we are all responsible for our actions and I can only prove my true character through my actions moving forward. I want to apologize to Mason Rudolph, my teammates, our entire organization, our fans and to the NFL. I know I have to be accountable for what happened, learn from my mistake and I fully intend to do so”.

Browns coach Freddie Kitchens explains that “he is always out in the community and doing things for the community. He is a good teammate. He just lost his cool. He lost his composure. A terrible mistake, and sometimes things like that carry on with someone”.

The NFL and its’ officials are required to give out severe consequences for situations like this because it shows that the league will not condone that kind of behavior, and it proves that no matter how talented the player is, anyone who performs actions such as those will be harshly punished.

So are all the punishments that are given out reasonable for the players’ actions? Or do they seem too mild or too severe?

While football is most definitely a contact sport that is meant to have people tackled to the ground, there is a line that Garrett certainly crossed. If mild consequences were given out, players would think it is not a big deal to perform actions and lose their temper such as Garrett did. While the Browns franchise knows they are losing a strong aspect of their team, they are not arguing the decision because they know what their player did was wrong and they do not want to see anything like that happen again, either. At the end of the day, these “severe” punishments are only given out to ensure that actions like Garrett, Ogunjobi, and Puncey’s do not happen again, and to promote the fair and appropriate playing of football that should occur.

According to, “NFL officials had no choice but to level a harsh penalty against the defensive end the day after his egregious behavior in Thursday night’s game between Cleveland and Pittsburgh. That’s why NFL had to send a clear message to ensure that Garrett understands the severity of his actions.” 

Garrett was nominated for Defensive Player of the Year, and had good odds to win it. However, this incident took him out of the running. Garrett knows that he must take responsibility for his actions, as do all of the other players involved.