Three Weeks Later, Myles Garrett’s Helmet Meltdown Is Pushing Football Toward A Crisis

NFL: NOV 14 Steelers at Browns
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See what the combination of Myles Garrett, his clueless coach for the Cleveland Browns and Charles Barkley unleashed?

Knuckleheads.

Mindless ones in cleats and shoulder pads.

Just like that, they’re triggering an epidemic throughout all levels of football after Garrett slammed that helmet 19 days ago in Cleveland against the head of an NFL opponent.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The NFL cops remembered back then that they had a brand to protect since the league made a record $16 billion last season. They issued $732,422 worth of fines to 33 players involved in a brawl that followed Garrett’s felonious assault against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph when the defensive end used a six-pound weapon with a face mask.

Who cared the NFL also fined each team $250,000?

Freddie Kitchens didn’t. The Browns head coach faked saying all of the right things after the Garrett mess ("I've never seen that in my life," Kitchens told reporters of Garrett’s actions following his team’s 21-7 victory on November 14. "It's not good."), and then he did the outrageous Friday night.

There was Kitchens, two days before his Browns would meet the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh for a rematch that already was overheating in the danger range, walking into a movie theater wearing a T-shirt under his coat that said, “Pittsburgh started it.”

To translate: Kitchens couldn’t care less that one of his players slammed a helmet against the unprotected head of an opponent.

He flaunted it.

When Kitchens was caught, he tried to blame others (“My daughters wanted me to wear the shirt,” he told reporters) for what Steelers players later said was a motivating factor in their 20-13 victory that pushed them closer to the playoffs and the Browns farther away from them.

That T-shirt was a message from Kitchens to his players and to others around the NFL and beyond that Garrett really was the victim and that you should be allowed to vent your anger by any means necessary.

So what does Barkley have to do with all of this?

It’s 26 years later, but Barkley remains wrong for the ages since he looked into cameras for that Nike commercial to say, “I am not a role model.”

Whether we like it or not, we’re all role models.

That’s especially true for high-profile folks such as NFL players and head coaches. If one of those players, oh, say, slings a helmet against somebody’s skull and his coach shrugs it away with an inflammatory message on a T-shirt, that has a tendency to sprint through society in ugly ways.

Take Saturday, for instance, when college football had two of the most notorious acts in its 150-year history.

While George Pickens and his University of Georgia team moved toward a 52-7 blowout in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, the freshman wide receiver traded blows in the corner of an end zone at Bobby Dodd Stadium with Georgia Tech defensive back Tre Swilling.

Then Pickens grabbed an off-balance Swilling by the jersey near his neck and slung the defender into a nearby wall.

Lovely.

A couple of hundred miles to the north in Knoxville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt’s Justice Shelton-Mosley returned a punt along the sidelines of the hometown Volunteers. He lost his helmet after Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings drove him to the ground on a tackle, and Jennings proceeded to stand over Shelton-Mosley before stomping on Shelton-Mosley’s face with his right cleat.

Former Georgia quarterback and current SEC Network analyst DJ Shockley said what Jennings did against Shelton-Mosley was “the most horrific thing I’ve seen in college football in a long time.

Guess Shockley didn’t see what Pickens did.

I was there for the Pickens thing, and I’d never seen anything close to that after more than 40 years as a professional journalist. Not only that, but as the NFL celebrates its 100th season, historians still haven’t found a time when another player did anything close to the Garrett thing.

Garrett started something ugly here.

Which means Garrett needs to join Kitchens, Barkley and everybody else who gets more than a little air time by repeating after me.

“I am a role model.”

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See what the combination of Myles Garrett, his clueless coach for the Cleveland Browns and Charles Barkley unleashed?

Knuckleheads.

Mindless ones in cleats and shoulder pads.

Just like that, they’re triggering an epidemic throughout all levels of football after Garrett slammed that helmet 19 days ago in Cleveland against the head of an NFL opponent.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. The NFL cops remembered back then that they had a brand to protect since the league made a record $16 billion last season. They issued $732,422 worth of fines to 33 players involved in a brawl that followed Garrett’s felonious assault against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph when the defensive end used a six-pound weapon with a face mask.

Who cared the NFL also fined each team $250,000?

Freddie Kitchens didn’t. The Browns head coach faked saying all of the right things after the Garrett mess ("I've never seen that in my life," Kitchens told reporters of Garrett’s actions following his team’s 21-7 victory on November 14. "It's not good."), and then he did the outrageous Friday night.

There was Kitchens, two days before his Browns would meet the Steelers Sunday in Pittsburgh for a rematch that already was overheating in the danger range, walking into a movie theater wearing a T-shirt under his coat that said, “Pittsburgh started it.”

To translate: Kitchens couldn’t care less that one of his players slammed a helmet against the unprotected head of an opponent.

He flaunted it.

When Kitchens was caught, he tried to blame others (“My daughters wanted me to wear the shirt,” he told reporters) for what Steelers players later said was a motivating factor in their 20-13 victory that pushed them closer to the playoffs and the Browns farther away from them.

That T-shirt was a message from Kitchens to his players and to others around the NFL and beyond that Garrett really was the victim and that you should be allowed to vent your anger by any means necessary.

So what does Barkley have to do with all of this?

It’s 26 years later, but Barkley remains wrong for the ages since he looked into cameras for that Nike commercial to say, “I am not a role model.”

Whether we like it or not, we’re all role models.

That’s especially true for high-profile folks such as NFL players and head coaches. If one of those players, oh, say, slings a helmet against somebody’s skull and his coach shrugs it away with an inflammatory message on a T-shirt, that has a tendency to sprint through society in ugly ways.

Take Saturday, for instance, when college football had two of the most notorious acts in its 150-year history.

While George Pickens and his University of Georgia team moved toward a 52-7 blowout in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, the freshman wide receiver traded blows in the corner of an end zone at Bobby Dodd Stadium with Georgia Tech defensive back Tre Swilling.

Then Pickens grabbed an off-balance Swilling by the jersey near his neck and slung the defender into a nearby wall.

Lovely.

A couple of hundred miles to the north in Knoxville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt’s Justice Shelton-Mosley returned a punt along the sidelines of the hometown Volunteers. He lost his helmet after Tennessee’s Jauan Jennings drove him to the ground on a tackle, and Jennings proceeded to stand over Shelton-Mosley before stomping on Shelton-Mosley’s face with his right cleat.

Former Georgia quarterback and current SEC Network analyst DJ Shockley said what Jennings did against Shelton-Mosley was “the most horrific thing I’ve seen in college football in a long time.

Guess Shockley didn’t see what Pickens did.

I was there for the Pickens thing, and I’d never seen anything close to that after more than 40 years as a professional journalist. Not only that, but as the NFL celebrates its 100th season, historians still haven’t found a time when another player did anything close to the Garrett thing.

Garrett started something ugly here.

Which means Garrett needs to join Kitchens, Barkley and everybody else who gets more than a little air time by repeating after me.

“I am a role model.”

Follow me on Twitter.

I started as a professional sports journalist in 1978 at the Cincinnati Enquirer after I graduated from Miami (Ohio) University, and I’ve been doing the same thing ever ...