Browns; Myles Garrett  after relationship denied his quitting ‘we’re all frustrated,


 Browns; Myles Garrett  after relationship denied his quitting ‘we’re all frustrated,

After numerous unsuccessful tries, the Cleveland Browns’ All-Pro defensive end sought assistance in the Denver Broncos’ visiting locker room. He finally located a trainer, who put the long-sleeved white shirt over Garrett’s head before placing his ill shoulder — the reason of his issues — in a sling.

Five days later, Garrett walked across UCLA’s practice field, able to lift his shoulder enough to drink a protein shake. He had not missed a game this season. Despite his suffering, he refused to miss the upcoming game against the Los Angeles Rams.

“Don’t find an excuse, find a way,” Garrett told ESPN. “At the end of the day, there will be winners and losers. Nobody’s going to look.

gain. And he vowed that this season, he wouldn’t be denied, no matter what.

“Not allowing anything to stop me,” Garrett said of his mindset this season. “It’s all about being relentless.”

One snag after another prevented Garrett from reaching his ultimate potential in past seasons. But Garrett also came to the realization that, in some ways, he was holding the Browns back from reaching theirs, too. Sacking the quarterback alone wasn’t enough. Past teammates grumbled about Garrett’s lack of leadership, both privately and publicly. He showed up late to meetings, which affected his ability to lead.

To become a true contender, the Browns needed their introverted and laidback superstar to set the tone off the field, as well: Mentor younger players; become a vocal leader; be the example for the locker room; show up on time; speak up in the meeting room; elevate the play of teammates. He knew he had to be relentless in that, too.

On Saturday, the Browns will make their third postseason appearance in three decades when they visit the Houston Texans (4:30 p.m. ET, NBC). After season-ending injuries to several key players, including Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb and quarterback Deshaun Watson, and while starting five different quarterbacks, Cleveland finished with 11 regular-season wins, tied for the most by the franchise since 1986.

Ask nearly anyone in the organization — players, coaches, front office personnel — and they will say Garrett is the biggest reason the Browns are in this position and have been able to overcome so much.

Garrett had always been a dominant individual pass-rusher. But according to those same people in the organization, this year he’s grown into that leader who has helped transform the Cleveland defense into a dominant unit. In turn, the Browns have emerged as a legitimate threat to reach their first Super Bowl.

“He’s taken that next step as a leader and foundational piece for this franchise,” said linebacker Anthony Walker, whom, along with Garrett, the players voted a defensive captain in the preseason. “You see it now. A lot of guys stepping up and making plays. That’s a testament to him. … That’s the difference.

“And nothing stopping him now.”

IN JULY, RETIRED defensive tackle Malik Jackson called Garrett out on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football.”

“I don’t think his leadership skills were the best,” said Jackson, who played for the Browns in 2021. “He needs to take that bull by the horns and just lead more by example as far as in the classroom because we all know what he can do on the field. But to be able to go in the classroom, command that respect, and tell guys what to do is really where I think he really needs to take that jump. … [But] some guys just don’t have it.”

Leading into last year’s final game, then-Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney told Cleveland.com he wouldn’t be re-signing because the team was “trying to get [Garrett] into the Hall of Fame instead of winning games.”

According to multiple sources, Garrett was late to meetings, which irked veterans like Jackson. He once blew off a meeting altogether, which especially bothered Clowney and Jackson. Garrett’s casual approach ultimately affected his ability to lead.

“I didn’t have a mentor to teach me how to lead, and most of the guys I talked to were out of the league or upper management, and they were trying to tell me that there was a certain way to lead,” Garrett said. “They had this picture in their mind of how a leader should go about his business. I was like, ‘Well, that’s not me.’ It really took me time. … [Finding] the wisdom to understand what kind of leader that I am and how to elevate others in a way that suits me.”

Early in his career, Browns left guard Joel Bitonio, now an offensive captain, had Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas to apprentice under. Garrett didn’t have anyone like that on the defensive side.

“People look up to Myles because he’s such an elite player,” said Bitonio, a six-time Pro Bowler who is the only current Brown who’s played for Cleveland longer than Garrett. “I don’t know if he ever needed to be that vocal leader because he just was like, ‘I play good. I’m a good player for us.’ And when he came in the league. … we never really had a guy be his leader.”

As a rookie, Garrett led the Browns with seven sacks, but Cleveland finished 0-16.

“He was so dominant from Day 1. … that we just automatically said, ‘Oh, well, you’re the best player on the team. You should be a leader,'” said Thomas, who played with Garrett in 2017 before retiring. “And sometimes you’re just not ready for that role right away.”

This year, Garrett was ready.

Multiple sources said Garrett is never late anymore. More than that, he’s the one now holding others accountable and trying to enhance team chemistry. Garrett helped put together a weekly defensive line dinner, either at restaurants or players’ houses.

“An amazing guy,” defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said. “Off the field, you could say he’s blossomed out of his shell a little bit more.”

Players also say Garrett is teaching and speaking in position meetings, the way former Browns say Thomas once did. Garrett has also taken younger players under his wing, most notably rookie defensive end Isaiah McGuire, who recorded his first career sack in Sunday’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. McGuire told ESPN that Garrett is constantly working with him, whether watching film or practicing technique.

“I’ve seen Myles mature over the time that I’ve been with him,” said Kevin Stefanski, in his fourth season as Cleveland’s head coach. “Obviously a very intelligent player and intelligent person, great off the field. But I think in his leadership is where I’ve seen a huge jump. And I think his teammates would tell you that, as well.

“We’re very fortunate to have really good leadership on this team. When it comes from Myles, and the caliber of player that he is, that’s just a greater driver.”

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