There have been a lot of what some fans might consider downright criminal things on the field at FirstEnergy Stadium in recent years.
Take the perfectly awful 0-16 season, for example.
But the melee that ensued Thursday night between Browns defender Myles Garrett and Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph that ended with fists and a helmet flying might be the first to rise to the level of ending up before a judge.
No criminal charges have been filed yet over the fight at the end of the game that resulted in Garrett ripping the helmet off Rudolph’s head then hitting him in the noggin with it. A league source confirmed to the Beacon Journal on Friday night that Rudolph does not plan to file charges against Garrett.
But there are a chorus of NFL pundits who are not only calling for Garrett’s long-term suspension but also for criminal assault charges.
Former NFL player and Monday Night Football announcer Booger McFarland said Friday via Twitter that Garrett violated a “code” among the NFL fraternity.
“We compete against one another until the edge of destruction within the rules (and) afterwards we take our helmets off, shake hands (and) wish each other well,” he tweeted. “We NEVER intentionally try to hurt each other.
“He committed a crime and should be charged.”
ESPN’s national NFL writer Kevin Seifert agrees.
“Myles Garrett committed the closest thing we’ve seen to an on-field crime in the NFL’s modern era,” Seifert tweeted after the game. “It was a singularly violent act and should be punished accordingly.”
But if history dictates —at least with the NFL —Garrett will face a likely long suspension and hefty fine but no criminal charges. On Friday, the NFL suspended him indefinitely.
No NFL player has ever been charged for something that happened within the boundaries of the field.
The last ugly incident to challenge this notion came in 2006 when Tennessee Titan Albert Haynesworth became angry after a play and stomped his cleats on the face of Dallas Cowboys Andre Gurode.
Gurode required 30 stitches and says he still suffers headaches and blurred vision.
Haynesworth was given a record five-game suspension that could be eclipsed by Garrett should he be out for the remainder of the six regular games left in this season.
When the extracurricular game-related activity ventures outside of the lines, things get a bit more tricky legally.
Five NBA players —including Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O’Neal, David Harrison and Anthony Johnson —were charged with assault in 2004 for their roles in the infamous “Malice at the Palace” when a scuffle ensued in the stands with Detroit fans.
Baseball player Jose Offerman was charged with assault in 2007 after seriously injuring another player by hitting him in the head with a bat during a fight in an Independent Atlantic League game.
And you don’t have to look far for another instance where a player was charged criminally for a fight inside of the lines.
Former University of Akron basketball player Khadim Gueye, who has since left the school and Akron, was charged with assault after injuring a teammate in a fight during a practice in December 2018.
Cleveland Police have not filed any charges.
Akron attorney Mike Callahan, who is a former county prosecutor, judge and now a defense attorney, said appearance aside —he sees nothing criminal in Garrett’s actions.
“Football is a violent sport,” he said. “It is what it is.”
He points out that NFL has its own rules and regulations that govern player behavior. He said Garrett’s action are best handled internally by the league since the fight was player against player inside the confines of the game and all the parties walked away relatively unscathed.
“If he is charged, I would be more than happy to represent him,” Callahan said. “People simply lose their tempers in the middle of something like that.”