It's been one of the biggest weeks in one of the biggest years of Myles Garrett's career.
Fresh off an impressive return to the field against the Titans, Garrett was named the Browns' 2020 Walter Payton Man of the Year, one of the NFL's top honors that recognizes a player for both his on- and off-field accomplishments. He'll be in the running for the league-wide honor, which will be handed out before the Super Bowl.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with Garrett to discuss the award and much more.
CB.com: What did the Browns' Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination mean to you?
Garrett: First, I'll say I'm blessed to be named the Walter Payton Man of the Year from my team. There's a lot of candidates we have that could have been nominated and well-deserving. I was fortunate to the one representing my team. It definitely came as a surprise because of so many people we have on our team that have been so beneficial to neighborhoods here or back in their home towns. I'm just a product of them. We have a great atmosphere around here. We celebrate giving and we try to promote that around the facility. It's nice to be recognized for what we're doing.
CB.com: Where does this rank for you in terms of your goals and accomplishments?
Garrett: Right up there. It's honestly a little bit higher than Defensive Player of the Year — winning the league-wide award. It's a matter of giving back. It's OK if I win or lose, just knowing I'm doing what I'm supposed to and doing what I was raised to. I'm doing my best for others and showing I care. I want to see them prosper like I would my own family and own kids, too. That means more to me than any award. I don't need the recognition. I don't need the popularity that comes with it. I'm happy with the good that comes out of it and the money for the charities.
CB.com: What's it been like to get back on the field after missing two games?
Garrett: First, I felt like the Energizer Bunny. I was on the couch all week. I'm hopping around, I'm excited to go. We're going through walk-through and I'm sprinting through. Then those COVID lungs hit and you realize after a little bit you feel like you've gone through three rounds of boxing training and I say, "Coach, I need a breather, a sub or two." It's been a slow recovery trying to get my conditioning back but it's been fun. It's been fun being around my guys. They're not happy to see the max protection come back with me but they're glad to have me back.
CB.com: How humbling of an experience was this?
Garrett: It definitely wasn't expected. I've heard of some athletes being really affected by COVID and having a lot of symptoms. I feel like I was taking care of my business, not having a lot of people around me at a given time and staying safe. I didn't think it would affect me too adversely. Obviously it was kicking my butt for three to four days. It hit a peak and descended for a week. Then I was sitting on the couch and I felt fine. If this were any other virus or illness, I feel like I would have been able to play through it or work through it. But the nature of this thing, I had to fight it and be ready to go back on the field when the time was there.
CB.com: How encouraged were you by how the defensive line stepped up without you?
Garrett: We've got some ballers on not only the defensive line, but the entire defense. We've got guys that are ready to make plays at any time. I'm not alone out there. Being out there and having guys you can count on and depend on and call friends, you want that. You want that camaraderie. You can just do your job and you have 10 other guys who can do theirs.
CB.com: What is it about the Ravens that makes generating a pass rush so tough?
Garrett: It's (Lamar Jackson). You just have to be able to keep (Jackson) in the pocket. It's not like he's a bad thrower. He can put it on the money, but it's better than have him outside of the pocket, running around and being able to make plays with his feet or flying down the field. The longer we allow him to break us out of the pocket and guys are able to get free, that's when you lose guys and you give up some really big plays. We're just trying to keep him in the pocket and apply pressure there and corral him.
CB.com: You've got back-to-back primetime games and a lot of playoff implications on the line. How much fun is this stretch going to be?
Garrett: It's what I imagined when I first got to the league, so this is exactly where we want to be.