Healthy Again, Myles Garrett Is Ready To Lead The Cleveland Browns’ Defense
For Myles Garrett, health-wise, last year was the imperfect storm. He has asthma, he tested positive for COVID-19, and he’s a professional football player. That can be a trying trifecta for a 6-4, 272-pound athlete.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had to use oxygen so frequently so early into a game. I felt like I was 50 percent. I hope nothing like that happens to me or anyone else,” said the Cleveland Browns’ All-Pro defensive end.
Garrett, the first overall pick by the Browns in the 2017 NFL Draft, tested positive for COVID in November of last season. It caused him to miss two games, and severely hampered him the rest of the season.
Garrett said trying to play through his asthma and the after-affects of having to deal with COVID hampered him not just physically but mentally last season.
“Once you get tired you start losing the play, so you’re thinking about what you’re supposed to do here,” he said. “If you’re thinking about what you’re supposed to do here, then you can’t think about the alternatives or the options off that, the pass-rush moves or the rip and release for run blocks. . . things start to slip and all this stuff starts to weigh on you.”
Fortunately for Garrett he was able to finish out the season, including playing in the Browns’ first postseason games in 18 years, a 48-37 win over Pittsburgh in the wildcard round and a 22-17 loss to Kansas City in the Divisional round.
MORE FOR YOU
Garrett played, but it wasn’t peak Garrett, for obvious reasons.
“I’m trying to get my conditioning back, and fighting through that when I got into games,” he said. “I think I had a quarter, maybe a quarter and a half, and then I was honestly emptying the tank.”
Garrett’s tank and his conditioning are doing much better these days. He is in Cleveland, taking part in the Browns’ organized team activities.
“I feel great. I feel the best that I have since last year before COVID. It’s a wonderful feeling,” Garrett said. “I feel like it was kind of a long road and now that I’m back I’m feeling well-conditioned and back on my feet. The world’s ahead of me.”
Last year’s COVID haymaker put a major dent in Garrett’s annual quest to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. “Sure did,” he said. “Sure did, and it hurt, too.”
Garrett will be one of the few returning starters on a Browns’ defense that has undergone a massive overhaul since last season. General Manager Andrew Berry concentrated on adding defensive players during the NFL Draft and the free agent signing period.
Not surprisingly, then, Cleveland’s OTA this week, which are voluntary, have been attended mostly by defensive players, in particular all the newcomers on defense. Garrett is one of the few holdovers, and a clear leader on Coach Kevin Stefanski’s defense.
“It’s no secret that Myles is a leader of this football team and a leader of this defense. To see him out there with his teammates, going through the drills and that type of thing is great,” Stefanski said.
Garrett said he feels the Browns revamped defense, “will come together quicker than most people anticipate. I like who we have on defense. There are a lot of guys who have played some good football who we have added to our roster, so I won’t be surprised if they come in here and start making plays immediately.”
According to Garrett, trying to accelerate the chemistry of the defense, which will have multiple new faces, was a major reason why so many of the defensive players showed up for the Browns’ OTA.
“As a defense, we decided we needed to be there to work with the younger guys and get some work in with the coaches,” he said. “I know it’s been a while for some of these guys. So just to be able to work on your craft a little bit and work on the plays so it flows a little bit more seamlessly than if we were to take a long, extended break and not know each other’s tendencies, and know how we are on the field.”