CLEVELAND, Ohio — Myles Garrett, reinstated by the NFL Wednesday from his indefinite suspension, identified the racial slur he said Mason Rudolph used before he ripped off the Steelers quarterback’s helmet and struck him over the head with it.
“He called me the N-word,” Garrett told ESPN Outside the Lines’ Mina Kimes in a short SportsCenter clip of the full interview that will air Saturday morning at 9 a.m. “He called me a ‘stupid N-word.’”
Suspended the final six games of the season worth more than $1.2 million in salary, Garrett had previously stated that Rudolph incited him with a racial slur, but wasn’t specific until this interview -- his first since the incident during the Browns’ 21-7 victory over the Steelers Nov. 14th.
“I don’t say the N-word, whether it’s with 'a' [or] ‘er,''' Garrett said. "To me personally, just shouldn’t be said, and whether it’s by family, friends, anyone. I don’t want to use it because I don’t want [people to] find that appropriate around me for anyone to use.”
Garrett also revealed the timeframe for when he believes Rudolph used the slur -- as he was taking him to the ground on that fateful play with eight seconds left in the game.
“There was less than 15 seconds left, I remember that and I didn’t want to be on the field but since I was already out there, and they were still throwing the ball, I decided I was going to go make a play,'' he said. "So he still had the ball, he was winding back to throw, and I’m going to hit him in the strike zone. I’m not trying to do anything illegal. I go to take him down and he says some words as we’re going down.”
Ten days after the incident, Rudolph vehemently denied using a racial slur, calling it “totally untrue. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he would go that route after the fact.”
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league ’found no such evidence’ that a racial slur was used, and a league source told cleveland.com that the NFL had no recorded on-field audio in making that determination.
But Garrett hinted in the Kimes interview at an NFL cover-up of the sound he believes existed.
"Most quarterbacks wear mics in their helmets,'' he said. "He somehow lost his helmet and had to get another one without a mic. There were guys who were mic’d up near me -- near us -- during that time who didn’t hear anything, and from what I’ve heard, there [may] have been audio during that game that could’ve heard something or could not have heard something, but they don’t want to say.
"So something was said. I know something was said. Now whether the NFL wants to acknowledge it, that’s up to them.''
He went on to say, "but I don’t want to make it racial thing, honestly. It’s overwith for me, and I’m pretty sure it’s overwith for Mason, so we just want to move past it and keep on playing football.''
Garrett not only accused Rudolph of inciting him, but of pushing him over the edge by coming at him again after he ripped the helmet off.
“When he said it, it kind of sparked something, but I still tried to let it go and still walk away,” Garrett said. "But once he came back, it kind of reignited the situation. And not only have you escalated things past what they needed to be with such little time in the game left, now you’re trying to re-engage and start a fight again. It’s definitely not entirely his fault, it’s definitely both parties doing something that we shouldn’t have been doing.''
Rudolph’s agent, Tim Younger, did not immediately respond to a text seeking a response.
Garrett revealed the alleged racial slur during his appeals hearing with independent officer James Thrash, and it was leaked to ESPN. Garrett later confirmed on his Twitter account that he brought up the slur during the hearing, but didn’t want it to be revealed.
"I didn’t want to try to use it as justification for my actions because there’s nothing to justify,'' he told Kimes. "There’s nothing that [he] can say or do to justify what I did on that day. I know what happened. I know what I heard and people say things when they’re heated or they’re full of emotion and I leave it on the field. He said it, but that was three months ago, four months ago now and I leave that behind.''
After Garrett’s initial allegation, Rudolph’s agent issued a statement of his own, calling it “a desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension. ...This is a lie. ..The malicious use of this wild and unfounded allegation is an assault on Mason’s integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday.''
The Steelers, reached Thursday night by ESPN, stood by their original statement that “Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident.”
But Kareem Hunt and others said Garrett told them about the racial slur the night of the incident, and teammates jumped to his defense in the aftermath.
“I know he wouldn’t lie on nothin’ like that,'' defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said. "He’s kind of a carefree type of guy, so I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t lie about nothin’ like that. Had to be something to get him out of his body.’’