Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The NFL "found no such evidence" that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph used a racial slur toward Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett prior to last week's melee between the teams.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN and NFL Media that the league investigated Garrett's claims but found no evidence to substantiate the allegation. According to ESPN, the accusation was made by Garrett during an appeal hearing with the NFL on Wednesday.
Garrett issued a statement later Thursday and said he stood by his claim but expressed disappointment that it leaked.
"I was assured that the hearing was space that afforded the opportunity to speak openly and honestly about the incident that led to my suspension," Garrett said. "This was not meant for public dissemination, nor was it a convenient attempt to justify my actions or restore my image in the eyes of those I disappointed.
"I know what I heard. Whether my opponent's comment was born out of frustration or ignorance, I cannot say. 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."
The Steelers released a statement earlier Thursday, saying Rudolph strongly denied the claim. Rudolph said earlier this week that he didn't say anything to provoke Garrett or escalate the altercation.
"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. "He will not discuss this accusation any further and his focus remains on preparation for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals."
Garrett's indefinite suspension was upheld by the league following his appeal, the NFL announced Thursday.
The decision, made by appeals officer James Thrash, means Garrett will remain suspended without pay for at least the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign. The defensive lineman will be required to meet with the commissioner's office before being reinstated.
With seconds left in the fourth quarter of last Thursday's game between the Browns and Steelers, Garrett ripped off Pittsburgh quarterback Mason Rudolph's helmet and struck him in the head with it, which sparked a melee between players from both teams.
In the aftermath of the altercation, the NFL handed down the longest ban for a single on-field incident in league history Friday, indefinitely suspending Garrett without pay for his role in the brawl. Rudolph, who appeared to kick Garrett in the groin and attempted to pull the pass-rusher's helmet off after being taken to the ground, was fined an undisclosed amount for his role in the fight.
The Steelers and Browns will meet again Dec. 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.