As Myles Garrett prepares to take the field this Sunday for the first time since the pivotal helmet-swinging melee, the Cleveland Browns defensive end reveals how close he was to ending his career, regardless of his reinstatement.
“I did [think about quitting,]” Garrett told cleveland.com in an interview. “Whether it was because of their decision or my decision, it was whether this was going to continue. … Life’s funny that way. Fame is fleeting, athletic ability is fleeting and you have to make the most of it while it’s here.
“I would have been OK. I love football. I love competing, I love my teammates, and I definitely want to win, but at the end of the day, I’m still a guy. I’m still a young man who has a lot of life to live and my life is much more than football. I just would’ve moved onto something else I enjoy and found another way to save my competitive nature, whether it would’ve been trying out for a basketball team or going to play baseball like [Michael] Jordan.”
The Nov. 14 Thursday night game between the AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers was already rife with tension before Garrett delivered the coup de grâce. With eight seconds remaining in the game, he swung his helmet at opposing quarterback Mason Rudolph. He alleges Rudolph used a racial slur, a claim the Steelers’ backup quarterback denies.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” he said. “It’s just seeing those lessons and taking them in stride. What can I get out of this and how can I make myself a better person and how and am I going to make people better around me who chose to stay, who chose to help me improve upon myself. What can I do for them? How can we get better from here?”
The league swiftly suspended the Pro Bowl defensive lineman indefinitely without pay for violating unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules, the longest in NFL history for a single on-field incident. Garrett, who also enjoys poetry and photography, says his time away from the sport pushed him to reflect on some difficult questions.
“What was I going to do [without football]?” he said. “What was I going to be? Who am I at the end of the day? Was I still going to be giving without football without that kind of income coming in?
“All of these things were on my mind. …I would’ve found something else I love to do, whether I was a writing coach or whatever. I would’ve left with my head held high and I wouldn’t have looked back.”
Garrett was a five-star recruit out of high school and played for Texas A&M for three seasons. He earned All-SEC and All-American honors twice, and after an impressive combine performance, entered the league as the 2017 NFL Draft’s No. 1 overall pick. He was reinstated in February and doesn’t take the league’s clemency for granted.
“What happened, happened, and at the end of the day you have to move forward,” Garrett said. “I was given a second chance and you have to make the best of it. I know something like that won’t happen again.”
The Browns exercised Garrett’s fifth-year option and agreed to a five-year, $125 million contract extension in July. Cleveland will face off against the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday.