For more than a year, it evaded Myles Garrett. The talented pass rusher was dogged throughout his junior year at Texas A&M and his rookie season in Cleveland because of two different ankle injuries. Even when he was cleared to return to the field, it wasn't the same.
A full offseason later, Garrett is back at that magic number, and the Browns' defense is all the better for it.
With a quick look back to his two-sack performance against Pittsburgh and a look ahead to the Saints, Garrett sat down Friday with ClevelandBrowns.com.
CB.com: Coming off a season-opening performance like the one you had, how good are you feeling going into this Saints' matchup?
Garrett: As confident as I was feeling before the game. Just going into it and doing what I do.
CB.com: When did you know in the preseason you were feeling as good as you've felt in a long while?
Garrett: It was really toward the end of the offseason. My speed was back and I felt strength in my ankle, turning and bending. I wasn't concerned about any movement I was making or how hard I was coming off.
CB.com: What holds a defensive end back when they're operating on a bum ankle?
Garrett: You can't torque and you can't go. You have to be able to torque your body with your upper body and your legs will follow. You've got to be able to swing your hips through and all those things require you to have sturdy, strong ankles so you can get through and make plays.
CB.com: It seems like both John Dorsey and Hue Jackson are continuously trying to motivate you to have a big season. How has that impacted your play?
Garrett: When I'm out there, I'm not worried about what they're saying. I'm just worried about playing my game and dominating one play at a time.
CB.com: When you feel the way you currently do, how high is your confidence?
Garrett: Just as high as the best in the league. I know I can go out there and make plays at any time that can change the game. I've just got to be able to have that in my mind and stay focused.
CB.com: When you went into this offseason, what was your biggest goal conditioning-wise?
Garrett: I needed to get my ankle back to 100 percent and get my conditioning to where I can play every down if needed to.
CB.com: Did you do anything different?
Garrett: Ran a little more, biked a little more, eased up on the weights. I was more trying to maintain. I established that muscle mass when I came up here, so I just needed to make sure the conditioning increased.
CB.com: Does anything really prepare you for the 84 snaps you played Sunday?
Garrett: No. There's no preparation for that. Mentally, you go out there in 100-degree weather down South, that can help you. That gets you mentally prepared to go out there; biking, running, doing sprints, exercising, working out. If you can do it there, you can do it anywhere.
CB.com: How much has the team's improvement in the secondary helped you and the rest of the team's pass rushers?
Garrett: It's a different game. If you rush and you maintain a rush, you don't have to immediately get there. That's what you want to do. That's your goal. But you can keep on rushing, keep on bending, keep on turning that corner, he might just have the ball because out there they're keying in and sticking to guys.
CB.com: There's a lot of new faces on defense, but how much does it help that you're in Year 2 with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams?
Garrett: We've still got the foundation that was here. The majority of the guys that were on the field the majority of time are still here. Having them and getting to know the system and understanding his scheme and how he wants to call things and the packages he's going to send out, you're able to have that under your belt and not be helter skelter. It helps a bunch. We focus on how they're breaking the huddle and what you're getting from them.
CB.com: What'd it mean to you to be named team captain?
Garrett: It's a great honor. I know my teammates respect me and hold me in high regard. I feel the same way about them. I've just got to lead by example.
CB.com: Did it surprise you at all?
Garrett: A little bit. I wasn't expecting it but I'm proud to have it.
CB.com: You're not the most vocal guy, but have you been more vocal since that role was given to you?
Garrett: I try to be at times but at the end of the day, people forget what you say but they always remember what you do.
CB.com: Looking ahead to the Saints, what makes Drew Brees such a tough guy to bring down?
Garrett: He just knows how to maneuver in the pocket well. He's a smaller guy so those escape hatches you think larger guys can't get through, he's able to squeeze through there and use a little bit of speed that will catch you off guard sometimes. He's able to manage the game so well and get the ball off on his time and his rhythm. We've got to get him off his rhythm.
CB.com: Does an environment like New Orleans has make things difficult for a defense or is that more for the offense?
Garrett: More for the offensive guys. They're going to be quiet when we're on the field. They want to allow the offense to make their keys and be able to hear their checks. When their defense is on the field, they'll be rocking and rolling. When we're at home, you're really not able to hear the snap count, so you're going off the ball and timing. When you're able to hear the guy, you've got to be able to push it out of your head and zero in on that timing. His vocal cadence can cause you to jump offsides.