In an appeal hearing with the NFL Wednesday, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett accused Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph of calling him a racial slur before the ugly brawl that took place during last Thursday's divisional matchup that landed Garrett an indefinite suspension from the league.
According to ESPN, reporters Josina Anderson and Adam Schefter were told of the allegation by sources who were at the hearing.
Rudolph has already denied the claim, telling reporters Wednesday that he didn't say anything to provoke Garrett or escalate the situation.
"Mason vehemently denies the report of being accused of using a racial slur during the incident Thursday night in Cleveland," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement to the press.
Rudolph's attorney, Richard M. Younger, responded to the allegation, calling it a "lie" and "desperate attempt to mitigate his suspension."
Younger also characterized the allegation as "an assault on Mason's integrity which is far worse than the physical assault witnessed on Thursday."
According to the ESPN report, the allegation caused a stir in the hearing room:
Garrett made the allegation as part of his initial comments during the appeal hearing in New York, sources said. It created an argumentative exchange between both sides about whether the allegation was permissible to be used in the appeal at that time.
When the allegation was made, appeals officer James Thrash remained stoic and took copious notes, sources said.
Why didn't Garrett bring up the allegation before his appeal?
Questions surround the timing of Garrett's allegation, which came only after the league slapped him with an indefinite suspension.
ESPN's Cleveland Browns reporter, Jake Trotter asked Browns' quarterback Baker Mayfield if he had previously heard about the allegation, to which he responded he had not heard it from Garrett or anyone else on the team.
Trotter also asked Browns defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson about the allegation. Richardson said he had not heard it from Garrett or anyone on the team, either.
It should be noted that many believed Garrett's actions last Thursday to be out of character for the pro-bowler, who did not have any prior misconduct since entering the NFL in 2017.
Rudolph has not been punished by the league over the incident despite calls from some for his role in escalating the situation.
A source told ESPN that a fine is expected, however, and that Rudolph intends to comply with whatever the league hands out.