From one first-round pick to another, Joe Thomas has been impressed with Myles Garrett, the talented edge rusher from Texas A&M and No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But Thomas, a 10-time Pro Bowler and third-overall pick in 2007, didn't form that impression *entirely *based on Garrett's freakish athleticism and potential to be an impact player for years to come. Instead, the veteran lauded the rookie for his humility and desire to earn his keep inside the locker room.
"I'm just impressed with his demeanor and his willingness to learn, his humbleness, but also you see that fire burning inside him to be great," Thomas said Tuesday. "And I think those are the hallmarks of guys that have a chance to be really excellent football players."
Garrett, who amassed 31 sacks in three seasons, spoke of not resting on past laurels at rookie minicamp last weekend.
"We have to find our place. We have to find out where we fit and how we can make this team better," he said. "I think we can all do that. We can all contribute in one way or another. These next three days and next couple of weeks will just be us finding our niche."
Browns second-year coach Hue Jackson said Garrett and the other rookies understand they must assimilate into a culture that's as strong as it's been since Jackson arrived two January's ago.
"I think they get it. What I'm trying to do right now is to get them to understand the coaching that's here and what they're going to come into and truly have them understand that they're just a piece of the puzzle and that they have to come in and truly embrace the veteran guys and understand how they do it," he said.
"In order to do that, we're going to kind of indoctrinate the next three days and try to give them an idea what it is going to be like when the other guys are here because they have to earn the right to be in that locker room. I don't care who it is, whether it's Myles Garrett or the last guy we drafted. They have to be able to do that because that is the only way the locker room is going to accept them now."
Thomas, one of the league's all-time great left tackles, said he's eager to go against Garrett when OTAs start next Tuesday. "It'll be fun, I'm sure he'll have a lot of energy and athleticism, which is something you lose when you get older," he said with a laugh, "so it'll be a good battle I'm sure in training camp."
Garrett said locking up with Thomas should give him a healthy dose of reality and what to expect next season.
"I want to be the best. The only thing holding me back is me. I have to learn from the veterans, just pick everybody's brain to know what they did and to stay on track, to stay focused and not get off track at all with their goals and their dreams," he said last month. "That takes hard work. That takes going against the best like Joe Thomas and listening and learning from your mistakes from the day before and picking up tips from him."
That approach should serve Garrett well in the coming months.
"I think just like the old adage, you play against good competition and you're going to get better. Hopefully I'm still good competition for him in this stage of my career, but I think having a good competitive battle, that can only be good for him," Thomas said.
"But also he's shown an interest in learning, and I'm a player that really likes to help teach and impart any wisdom that I've gotten over the ages on some of those young guys. So it'll be fun for me, too, to try and help him as best as I can and try to get him to think like an offensive tackle and hopefully turn him into the great player that he can be."