Myles Garrett told the NFL that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph used a racial slur toward him before the now-infamous attack from Garrett, but the league said it found no evidence to back it up.
A report from ESPN on Thursday noted that the Cleveland Browns defensive end, who has suspended indefinitely for ripping Rudolph's helmet from his head and hitting him with it, tried to justify the attack by claiming the Steelers quarterback called him a racial slur.
Rudolph strongly denied the accusation and the NFL said there was no evidence it ever happened, but Garrett is sticking by the claim. He released a statement expressing frustration that details of his meeting with the NFL had been leaked and reiterating that Rudolph made the statement.
"I know what I heard. Whether my opponent's comment was born out of frustration or ignorance, I cannot say," Garrett said. "But his actions do not excuse my lack of restraint in the moment, and I truly regret the impact this has had on the league, the Browns and our devoted fans."
It was not specified what word Rudolph allegedly said to Garrett. His claim was met with some skepticism across the sports landscape, with many expressing doubt that no one else would have come forward and that it appeared to take days for him to come forward.
Tiki Barber speculated on the CBS Sports Network that Garrett may be trying to garner support and find a way to have his record-setting suspension reduced.
Rudolph attacked the allegation through his attorney, Timothy Younger, who released a statement to ESPN noting that Garrett did not even make the claim until his hearing with the league.
"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," Younger said. "This is reckless and shameful. We will have no further comment."
Some had blamed Rudolph for grabbing Garrett's helmet as the two tangled in the closing seconds of last week's win for the Browns over the rival Steelers. But Rudolph reiterated this week that he doesn't believe he did anything to cause the attack. It remains unclear just how long Garrett's suspension could last. The league announced that he will be sidelined at least for the remainder of this season and the playoffs, but he could potentially file for reinstatement after that time.