Myles Garrett's biceps almost burst out of his suit jacket at the NFL Draft. (ESPN)
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Editors note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Myles Garrett’s last sack of the 2020 season should have been heroic. It should have set up the Browns for one last offensive drive to the AFC Championship Game.
He felled Chad Henne for a 6-yard loss to the Chiefs’ 36-yard line. It was third-and-14 at the two-minute warning. One more defensive stop and the Chiefs would punt and Baker Mayfield would take over. Chiefs were up, 22-17.
But a mid-season bout with Covid-19, exacerbated by a life-long asthma condition, plus an oblique injury suffered in the first half, ultimately proved too much for even the Herculean Garrett to overcome.
On third down, Henne scrambled to his left, away from Garrett, and dived to within inches of the first down as Garrett visibly labored in chase of the 35-year-old quarterback. Henne then ended the Browns’ season with a fourth-down pass to Tyreek Hill, who beat M.J. Stewart with one step off the snap of the ball.
After the game, Garrett said, “After the sack, I was just worried about trying to get my breath back and make another.”
‘I was empty in the tank.’
It was like that for Garrett since he contracted the coronavirus in the 10th week of the season.
Through nine games, Garrett had 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, two recoveries and induced a holding penalty in the end zone for a safety.
He missed two games with the virus, and was not the same player afterwards. Over the final five regular-season games, Garrett had 2.5 sacks and no turnovers.
“Condition-wise, I felt like I was 50 percent,” Garrett said on Wednesday after participating in the second of three OTA practices this week.
“I do not think I have ever had to use oxygen so frequently and so early into a game like [in] Tennessee [in his first game back after contracting the virus]. I do not think I had a huge amount of snaps. I was like hanging on.
“Once you get tired and once you start losing the play so you are trying to think of what you are supposed to do here. If you are thinking about what you are supposed to do here and you can’t think about the alternatives or the options off that or off of the pass rusher moves or the rip and release for run blocks. Once you are just trying to remember the play, you are not thinking about running calls with your DTs, things start to slip and then you are not thinking about alternatives you can do with your hands. You start to just rely on one move.
“All of that stuff just starts to weigh on you, so I am just trying to get my conditioning back and I am fighting through that when I get into games and to practices. I had like a quarter or maybe a quarter and a half and then I was honestly empty in the tank, and I do not think I have ever been like that.”
But that was then. Now he is back to normal.
“I feel great. I feel the best I have since last year before COVID. It is a wonderful feeling. I feel like it was kind of a long road. Now that I am back, I am feeling well-conditioned and feeling back on my feet. The world is ahead of me,” Garrett said.
Leading by being there
Garrett’s penchant for working out is legendary. His Instagram posts of dead-lifting unfathomable amounts of weights and posterizing gym rats in pickup basketball games routinely go viral.
At the NFL draft on Cleveland’s lakefront, Garrett strode on stage to announce the team’s selection of Anthony Schwartz in the third round with his biceps nearly bursting through an olive-green suit coat.
“I have been working hard,” Garrett said. “I feel like I have been trying to elevate myself every year. I have been working on my progression one or two times a day for four or five days. I think it is going to pay off big time, but I do not think I lost any speed so I do not want [opponents] to get any ideas that I am a little bit slower because that is not the case.
“I can’t let anybody outwork me.”
Garrett’s work ethic compelled him to participate in OTAs this week despite the boycott of the voluntary workouts called by Browns center JC Tretter, the players union president.
“Really, the D-line and kind of as a defense, we decided we needed to be there to work with the younger guys, get some work in with the coaches and for everyone to be able to get on the bags, work on their technique and get on some cleats and a helmet,” Garrett said.
The next game that counts that Garrett plays will be against the same Chiefs team that denied the Browns a berth in the AFC Championship Game.
The NFL scheduled the Browns at Kansas City in a marquee Sunday 4:25 p.m. matchup that could be an early portent of the next championship game. The Chiefs have been girding for a third straight trip to the Super Bowl with over 70 players attending voluntary OTAs. The Browns had 55 this week, but none was a regular from the offense
“Just because they are getting work in at their facility does not mean that we are not working just because we are away,” Garrett said. “Our defense is getting the work in and working on their craft, just working from home. We have that freedom and that liberty. When we get to Game 1, we will see who has been gelling better and who has the upper hand.”