Myles Garrett didn't want to miss a chance to take reps with some of the new teammates the Browns have added to their defense in 2021.
The defensive line, in particular, has plenty of them. Garrett, who led the Browns with 12 sacks last season, is the only 2020 starter from the unit who will return to Cleveland this season, and as the top leader of a defense flush with new players at every position, he was eager to slip on a jersey and start his on-field work with the 2021 version of the Browns defense.
He finally had a chance to do that this week. Garrett is one of several veterans in Berea for voluntary OTAs, and he knows his presence will help some of the new defensive additions find their footing.
"We need to be there to work with the younger guys and get some work in with the coaches," Garrett said Wednesday in a video call with local reporters. "For everyone to be able to work on their technique and put on cleats and a helmet … it'll flow a bit more seamlessly."
Check out exclusive photos of phase 3 of the offseason
Garrett is conducting his first practices in Berea since the Browns ended last season in the AFC Divisional Round. Ever since players conducted their exit interviews to discuss the season, which saw the Browns snap an 18-year playoff drought, the Browns have gone to work at putting their full focus on 2021 preparations.
For Garrett, who's entering his fifth NFL season since being drafted first overall by the Browns in 2017, that meant putting ample work in the weight room and on the basketball court, which have both been the settings for several of Garrett's social media posts throughout the offseason.
The work in the weight room will still be consistent as Week 1 nears (we're 102 days away from the Browns' opening kickoff, for anyone wondering).
The basketball highlights, however, will be coming to a halt.
"He retired," Stefanski joked in his video interview Wednesday. "So congratulations on a great career for Myles. Really proud of him, but he's done."
Jokes aside, Garrett was happy to share that his endurance is back in better form after a two-week bout with COVID-19 in the middle of last season. The virus sidelined Garrett for two games while he was a top candidate for Defensive Player of the Year honors, and he said his conditioning felt as though it was at "50 percent" when he returned for the Browns' final seven games.
Now, after a few months of workouts away from the field, Garrett said he's feeling much better.
"I feel great," he said. "It's the best I've had since last year before COVID. It's a wonderful feeling. I feel like it's been a long road, and now that I'm back, I feel like I'm well conditioned and back at my peak. The world is ahead of me."
In addition to the workouts, Garrett has been all in on helping the Browns' new defensive acquisitions acclimate to the team. In addition to S John Johnson III, CBs Troy Hill and Greg Newsome II and LBs Anthony Walker and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Garrett must build a rhythm with DEs Jadeveon Clowney, Takkarist McKinley and DTs Malik Jackson and Andrew Billings — among plenty of other new defensive additions.
With so many new pieces, it's reasonable to expect some time will be needed for the unit to glue together. But based on what Garrett's seen through the early practices and in virtual meetings, he believes the unit is meshing along at a brisk pace.
"I think it would come together quicker than most people anticipate," he said. "I like what we have on defense. There's a lot of other guys who've played some good football that we've added to our roster, so I won't be surprised if they come in here and start making plays immediately just because that's what they've been doing. They're smart, they're quick and they'll be able to catch on and follow suit."
Each practice and virtual meeting will push the defense closer toward the finished product the Browns hope to accomplish by the end of training camp. And after another season where Garrett proved his importance to the unit's success, he plans to do everything possible to help them start strong in 2021.
"We've got a good thing going," he said. "We've all got to be on the same uniform, the same standard."