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Learning goes both ways with Myles Garrett and Joe Thomas

The Browns hope an old adage helps rookie defensive end Myles Garrett blossom into a playmaker for years to come.

As iron sharpens iron, Garrett lined up across from left tackle Joe Thomas during Wednesday's practice, effectively pitting the No. 1 overall pick against a 10-time Pro Bowler widely considered one of the league's all-time players at his position.

"It's exciting to go against No. 73 and all of the first-teamers," Garrett said. "That's something I'm looking forward to doing this season. Just going against that level of talent, it gets me juiced and ready for our opponents."

This was how the Browns welcomed Garrett in what was his first day taking reps with the first-team defense. The former Texas A&M star didn't disappoint.

At one point, Garrett -- with an unusual combination of size and speed -- slipped past Thomas and would have dropped quarterback Cody Kessler to the ground in a live setting. "I think I beat him on the last rush," Garrett said of that play.

"I can easily see the reasons why you make him the No. 1 pick," Thomas said with a wide smile Thursday.

"I know I saw a blur going around me," Jackson added. "I didn't know who was over there. I'm not surprised by anything (Garrett) does. He just has to do it every day. You have to do it every day and keep getting better."

But true to Garrett — who has impressed his older teammates with his humility and work ethic — he revealed moments where Thomas and the Browns offensive line immobilized him.

"There was a rush where I tried to 'bull' and he started to slow me down," Garrett said. "Then, (left guard Joel) Bitonio came and basically stopped me in my tracks. I heard Joe whisper to me, 'nice try.' That's going against one of the world's best. You're going to get better each day by doing that."

On hand at practice Wednesday was legendary pass rusher and Hall-of-Famer Bruce Smith, who watched Garrett — whom he has helped tutor recently — from the sidelines. One of his central takeaways from the session was how Thomas could prove to be an "invaluable asset" for the youngster.

"He needs this experience right now of going against the best," Smith said. "To be able communicate with him after a play is over, after a pass rush. He can teach him how to be a dominant player much quicker if he talks to him, what he did wrong or right, as opposed to remaining silent. Him engaging and playing and getting as much action against Joe as he possibly can while he's a rookie is critical."

Jackson added: "If anybody can give him some good instruction on what they have seen through the years it's going to be Joe, and then it's good for Joe to go against somebody with that kind of explosion and that kind of speed and quickness."

It's all a role Thomas, who enters his 11th season, has come to embrace.

"I have enough experience under my belt where I can give him a few tips," Thomas said. "It's been fun because he's very receptive to coaching. He's extremely bright and he's great at understanding the points you're trying to give him."

In the end, both the veteran and the rookie could be better for it.

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