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UPDATED 2/17, 12:45 p.m. ET: During an appearance on ESPN's First Take, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he thinks Mason Rudolph should take the necessary steps to protect his brand even if that means filing a lawsuit against Myles Garrett.
"I would expect him to do what was appropriate in terms of protecting his name and reputation, and I would do so aggressively, and I don't blame him," Tomlin said on First Take, per Chase Williams.
Garrett has claimed on several occasions that the helmet-swinging altercation was triggered by Rudolph using racist language. Tomlin has gone on record to denounce these claims and stand beside his player. He doubled down on this notion during his appearance on First Take.
"I took offense to it...I thought it was appropriate that Mason was properly defended...These accusations are serious. Not only in terms of Mason Rudolph's character but his professional pursuits," Tomlin said.
See original story below.
On Saturday, Rudolph's attorney, Tim Younger, tweeted out a statement claiming that Garrett "exposed" himself to "legal liability" during his recent interview with ESPN.
"We waited to hear the entire interview," Younger wrote. "Garrett, after originally apologizing to Mason Rudolph, has made the ill-advised choice of publishing the belated and false accusation that Mr. Rudolph uttered a racial slur on the night in question. Note that Mr. Garrett claims that Mr. Rudolph uttered the slur simultaneously with being taken down, and before Mr. Garrett committed a battery by strike Mr. Rudolph on the head with a 6 lb helmet. ... it is Mr. Garrett who has decided to utter this defamatory statement — in California. He is now exposed to legal liability."
During his ESPN interview, Garrett claimed that Rudolph called him a "stupid N-word" which sparked the helmet-swinging brawl.
"When he said it, it kind of sparked something, but I still tried to let it go and still walk away. But once he came back, it kind of reignited the situation," Garrett said. "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."
This is not the first time Garrett has blamed the incident on a racially charged comment. The Nov. 14 altercation, those close to Garrett went on record explaining that the defensive end was angered by a racial slur made by Rudolph.
After hearing Garrett's comments to ESPN, Rudolph took to Twitter where he called the accusations "1000% False" and a "Bold-Faced Lie."
"I did not, have not, and would not utter a racial-slur," Rudolph wrote. "This is a disgusting and reckless attempt to assassinate my character."
Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, also came to Rudolph's defense. He claimed to have been on the field shortly after the altercation and "received no indication of anything racial or anything of that nature in those interactions."
Myles Garrett was reinstated by the NFL last week. He is now cleared to participate in the Browns' first voluntary team activities which will take place in April.