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Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski tried to quell the speculation before it even began when announcing he named Pro Bowler Myles Garrett a captain for Sunday’s meeting with Mason Rudolph and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He knew people would think it’s a statement of some sort, Sunday marking the first meeting between Garrett and Rudolph since Garrett swung a helmet at the Steelers quarterback at the end of a game last November. Rudolph is starting this Sunday for a resting Ben Roethlisberger.
“I don’t normally announce captains, but I’m going to have Myles Garrett be the captain this weekend and I don’t want that to be misconstrued,” Stefanski told reporters Friday. “It’s a big game so I’m sending the big guy out there but it is in no way a call back to anything previously, so I just want to make sure that that’s clear.”
Garrett claimed after the 2019 incident that Rudolph used a racial slur to set him off; Rudolph denied the accusation.
The 25-year-old Garrett, taken No. 1 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, is captain-worthy if for nothing else his on-field performance. He earned his second Pro Bowl nomination this season, having recorded 12 sacks in 13 games. He has double-digit sacks in each of the last three seasons. Garrett also has four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries this season.
Garrett was asked if last season’s scuffle will change his approach in trying to hit Rudolph.
“Get outta here with that,” he told reporters. “He’s getting hit just like everybody else. I’m not gonna put a pillow under his head … It doesn’t change my mindset at all with him back there.”
Stefanski’s decision appears to be well-received by Garrett’s teammates.
“He’s our leader,” wide receiver Jarvis Landry said. “He’s a guy that so many guys on this team respect — every guy on this team respects, and in this organization. I know for this fact: If anybody is a Cleveland Brown, it’s Myles Garrett.”
The Browns (10-5) are coming off a loss to the Jets but can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Steelers (12-3,) who have clinched the AFC North and are resting players since they won’t have a bye week entering the NFL playoffs.
That puts Rudolph back in the spotlight. The 25-year-old — who’s recently been the center of romance rumors involving tennis star Genie Bouchard — hasn’t heard from Garrett since the 2019 incident, but he would engage in conversation if Garrett initiates one.
“I’m happy to hear Myles out with whatever he would — if he wants to approach me, if he wants to talk,” Rudolph told reporters Friday. “He’s a great player and they are playing well as a defense. He’s a menace in the backfield. He’s very disruptive. When they are playing at their best, he’s sack-fumbling and he’s getting to the quarterback. Obviously, you are very aware of that and you treat him with great respect.”