BEREA, Ohio -- The most revealing thing we learned about Myles Garrett during this training camp might have come when he wasn’t on the field.
We all know what Garrett is capable of doing on the field. The way he bends the edge. How he swipes his enormous right arm down on the ball before the quarterback can hide it away. The speed and power that can overwhelm any tackle he faces.
These are the things that can earn Garrett his first Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2021.
What stood out about Garrett in this camp, however, was his presence. He was engaged with his defensive linemates during drills. He spent time on the side talking pass rush moves with Jadeveon Clowney. When the Browns practiced in front of the stands, he egged the fans on, waving his arms in the air, shooting Gatorade bottles into trash cans and turning and smiling when fans would call his name.
Yes, Browns fans got to know Garrett a little when he was drafted -- his love of dinosaurs, in particular, a recurring theme in various profiles of the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft.
He wasn’t quite ready to really let people in, yet. It’s part of who Garrett had always been.
“I was kind of aloof,” Garrett said in an interview with cleveland.com, “especially growing up, sit on the side, didn’t talk much, didn’t draw any attention. Now, I know who I am, I’m comfortable with that, I’m confident in what I do and who I choose to be.”
Garrett, over the last two years in particular, has seemingly embraced his role as one of the faces of the Browns franchise.
“My friends have noticed it. My family’s noticed it,” Garrett said. “They’re happy to see it because they think I’m a decent person, they think I’m pretty nice, think I have some interesting thoughts and some interesting hobbies and think I should be able to share some of myself without giving too much of my time away or taking away from who I am.”
Some of it is what you’d expect -- he launched his own YouTube channel recently, MGTV -- and he’s active on Instagram. He went viral, even by his high standards, when he posted a video of dunking on someone who made a bad decision in a pickup basketball game.
It has also shown up in other ways, like when he held a dog playdate with fans and teammates at a dog park in Cleveland.
“I feel like we all lost a year-and-a-half of our lives,” Garrett said. “It’s weird but also enjoyable that we’re able to go back to the way things are supposed to be. But I think, honestly, it would have happened sooner if COVID wouldn’t have happened. I’d have been doing more playdates and trying to get out more and get people involved in the things that I enjoy. It didn’t shake out like that. Took a year to marinate, grow as a person, mature.”
Garrett says the ups and downs of life made him decide he wanted to come out of the other side a better person. It has been a tumultuous 22 months since the night of the 2019 Mason Rudolph helmet incident. He served a suspension, made a trip to Tanzania with Chris Long’s Waterboys foundation, signed a massive contract extension and saw both his parents come down with COVID-19 before he got it himself at the end of the 2020 season.
It’s hard to not reflect and change at least a little when so much happens in so little time.
Garrett, as a player and a person, appears to have found a confidence level that allows him to finally catch up to the franchise’s other on-field face -- quarterback Baker Mayfield, who has never lacked for confidence. It’s allowed him to be more comfortable in front of fans and teammates at camp and elsewhere.
“Myles of rookie year would never have done that,” he said. “I’m just confident in who I am. I know Baker came in with that confidence. That’s just not how I grew up, never how I’ve been, but I’m feeling more relaxed in situations like that, I’m not scared to put myself out there.”
“MGTV has changed him man,” Mayfield joked on Wednesday, before acknowledging he’s seen a change in Garrett, too. “He’s definitely come out of his shell a little bit. Not that I think he was ever too quiet of a person, I just think you had to be pretty close to get to know him. It’s good to see Myles wear his personality on his sleeves and for people to see that, the caring human being that he really is off the field -- on the field it’s a different story -- but I’m happy for Myles and him showing that personality.”
A more comfortable Garrett is ready to flourish on the field, as well. Much like Mayfield, Garrett has had to deal with multiple schemes and coordinators throughout his brief career.
“I’ve had some good people in the facility, had some bad people in the facility,” he said, “some that I agreed with and some that I didn’t. That tears at you.”
He’s quick to point out he’s not throwing shade on any coaches, just acknowledging that sometimes the chemistry isn’t there.
“Sometimes you just don’t agree with the people you work with,” Garrett said. “It happens. Sometimes you just don’t have good chemistry and you’re not happy where you are.”
“I ended up in metaphorical Bel Air,” he said.
“Having a lot of people that care for you, who you choose to be, the player that you are, really sets you straight on trying to go out there and do your best and be your best,” Garrett added. “I feel like everything has aligned and I can go out there and play with confidence that I’m the best player on the field at any given time and I have to prove it.”
On the field, Garrett is poised to take another jump. Off the field, he’s made the leap.
“At the end of the day we only have each other and I’ll be remembered for the person I choose to be off the field,” he said. “On the field, you may remember my numbers, some of my highlights and hopefully my headband, but off the field they’ll remember the person I chose to be, the kind of teammate I chose to be and the kind of man I am with my family and friends. I want my last name to be carried on with a good connotation.”
That’s what it means to be the face of the franchise.