Myles Garrett didn't look back at what he already achieved in the NFL when he signed a contract extension with the Browns shortly before training camp last season.
That extension, a five-year deal that solidified Garrett's future in Cleveland and further cemented his role as the top leader of the defense, was given to him because of the 30.5 sacks he accrued in his first three seasons. He was undoubtedly among the best defensive ends in the league, but he didn't view the extension as a reward for that work.
He needed to fulfill the role that came with it.
"Now, it's time to prove it," Garrett said after the extension. "They have faith in me, and now, I have to give them a reason to have that faith."
Garrett gave the Browns plenty of reasons in 2020 for their faith to grow even higher in him in future seasons.
He ended the season with 12 sacks, two pass deflections and four forced fumbles — a career-high — in 14 games. He made game-changing plays in nearly all of the Browns' 11 regular-season wins, their highest total in a season since 1994, and was nominated to his second career Pro Bowl and garnered first team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career.
"(He means) everything," defensive coordinator Joe Woods said in October. "You have one of those flamethrowers out there, that is what allows you to do certain things in coverage. I always try to put Myles in good situations because I feel like if we can get him one-on-one, I feel like he has a chance to win every time."
Garrett's big plays helped the Browns defense force takeaways at a torrid pace to open the season. Cleveland started 5-2 and created 14 turnovers in that stretch, which was one of the highest totals of all NFL teams.
Garrett was responsible for a handful of them. He recorded his four forced fumbles in that period and was also responsible for a game-changing safety from Colts quarterback Philip Rivers in Week 5. Those big plays propelled him to the top of the list of players in the early conversation for Defensive Player of the Year.
"Myles is a great vet," linebacker B.J. Goodson said. "He understands what he means to the team and to our defense. He is a game-changer, man. The guy makes explosive and big plays in big moments. He means a lot to our defense."
Garrett's hot start to the season came to an unexpected pause in Week 11 when he contracted COVID-19. The virus forced him to miss two games as he slowly regained his strength and conducted breathing exercises to build back his stamina. He returned in Week 13 and added another 3.5 sacks and four quarterback hits to what had already been another big season.
No matter where he was, the Browns defense always turned to Garrett. He was often the player in the middle of the team pregame huddle delivering the final motivational speech, and he lifted the Browns defense on several occasions with sacks and fumbles.
"He is obviously a big part of what we do defensively," Browns EVP and General Manager Andrew Berry said. "He is an elite playmaker in this league."
Now, the Browns hope to build an even better defense around Garrett, who's just 25 years old and already third in franchise history with 42.5 career sacks. He's helped set a new standard of playoff football in Cleveland, which is precisely what the Browns hoped he could do when they extended his future in Cleveland through the 2026 season.
After turning in another enormous year, Garrett is determined to push the Browns even farther.
"I'm never happy with losing," Garrett said. "We are always trying to go to the very end and be there. We have a young core. We go back, keep building on what we have this year and take another crack at it."
Check out the best photos from the Browns game against the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday by the Browns photo team