Freddie Kitchens and Myles Garrett spent a good part of Friday morning together before Garrett apologized to the team for his actions late in Thursday’s win over the Steelers.
The Browns coach vowed to stand behind the talented pass rusher, whom the NFL suspended indefinitely Friday for hitting Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph on the head with his own helmet, while acknowledging the “egregious mistake” Garrett made that will put the Browns in a bind for the rest of the season.
Kitchens said “the ball is in (Garrett’s) court on how he responds to this.” Friday served as a solid start, as Garrett issued a formal apology to Rudolph, the entire Browns organization, Browns fans and the NFL before addressing his teammates in person.
“He understands the magnitude of what occurred last night,” Kitchens said. “He is very remorseful. He is very sorry for his actions. He understands that he let himself down, he let his teammates down and he let his organization down. We look at our team as a family, and in a family, sometimes family members make mistakes. You support them in every way that you can, even if it is an egregious mistake. We know who Myles is as a person. We know who Myles is and the character that Myles has, and that is under no circumstance what he wants to be portrayed as.
“We will support him. He will learn from it. Our team will learn from it and become better because of it.”
Check out the best photos from the Cleveland Browns win over the Pittsburgh Steelers yesterday by the Browns photo team
Browns players gathered Friday for treatment and meetings following their second win in a five-day span. At 4-6, the Browns are somewhat back on their feet after a disappointing first half of the season, but they’ll now have to pick themselves up six more times without the services of their top defensive player.
That feeling sunk in a bit as the soft-spoken Garrett addressed the team.
“He says that he is going to prove to us that that was just one incident on his radar and that he is going to strive every day to be a better person and show us that that is not his true character,” offensive guard Joel Bitonio said. “He feels like he had let us down, obviously, because he is not going to be out there with us on game days.”
The loss will be significant. Players and Kitchens, alike, haven’t tried to sugarcoat it in the aftermath of an incident that also resulted in a one-game suspension for defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi.
Garrett was a wrecking ball throughout Thursday’s game, drawing multiple holding calls and providing all sorts of pressure on Rudolph, who threw four interceptions. He posted 10 sacks in as many games and forced opposing offenses to game-plan for his presence, often devoting multiple blockers his way on most snaps.
“He was playing like a possible Defensive Player of the Year candidate and that is what I think everyone knows him as,” Bitonio said. “He is a guy that gets after the quarterback, plays the run well, he is a great player. It is tough. Any time you lose a guy to injury, to suspension, to anything of that nature, it is something that you have to try and fill that spot.
For a Browns team that can’t afford to lose if it hopes to sneak into the playoffs, the margin for error has grown thinner. The confidence, though, remains in a good place because of what the team has been able to do in each of its past two games.
“I think we have the men in the room to accept the challenge,” Kitchens said. “There has been adversity hit it seems like all year so these guys have answered the call of adversity, and I expect them to do the same moving forward. There will not be any excuses. We will have 11 out on the field, and those 11 will be expected to do their job.”