Myles Garrett was among the more noticeable absences at Cleveland Browns OTAs this week, which wasn’t the best look for the leader of the defense.
The Browns are installing a new scheme under Jim Schwartz and are integrating a handful of fresh players, including Za’Darius Smith and Ogbo Okoronkwo — Garrett’s new pass-rush partners.
The workouts are voluntary but Garrett showing up could have gone a long way as the Browns take the first steps into a critical season for all involved. Jason Lloyd of The Athletic joined the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show and had a strong take on Garrett’s absence.
“If you want to be a leader on this team, if you’re a franchise pillar, you need to be at this. And it’s a new defensive coordinator. It’s a new scheme,” Lloyd said. “There’s a lot at stake this year, there’s a lot of jobs at stake, the future of your career is at stake. Because if this thing goes sideways, who knows where this goes — this is a really important season and a really important offseason. And if you want to carry yourself as a pillar of this franchise, and as a leader of this franchise, set the tone.”
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski was asked about Garrett’s absence in particular and took the high road.
“I’m not going to characterize it,” Stefanski said when asked if it was annoying to not have him there. “I think it’s a voluntary program and the guys that are here, we coach them up. That’s how we approach it.”
Myles Garrett’s Leadership Has Been Questioned Before
There’s no doubt Garrett is one of the most talented and impactful players on the Browns’ roster. He’s coming off back-to-back 16-sack seasons, earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors and is on a five-year, $125 million contract.
However, Garrett’s leadership — or lack thereof — has been questioned before with the Browns. He’s criticized coaches, teammates, and even the fans at times, which was sometimes warranted but other times not what the team needed.
He’s also had his own indiscretions. Last season, Garrett was benched for the opening series against the New Orleans Saints for what he dubbed a “misunderstanding” with the coaching staff.
“It’s just a bad look for a starter just in general,” Garrett said at the time. “So just don’t put myself in that situation again.”
But again, these workouts are voluntary, so Garrett missing them ultimately has no significant effect on the team. But as a leader, with a captain’s badge on his jersey, his presence would have been an important tone-setter for the entire squad.
Other veteran players that did not attend OTAs include guard Joel Bitonio, running back Nick Chubb and tight end David Njoku.
New Browns DE Za’Darius Smith Excited to Partner With Myles Garrett
The Browns acquired Smith from the Minnesota Vikings earlier this month, giving Garrett a Pro Bowl partner on the other end of the defensive line. A big part of why Smith was eager to land with the Browns was the chance to play with Garrett and the impact he envisions them making as a pass-rush duo.
“I can’t wait. I did get a chance to talk to him once I did get the news. I think the NFL posted it and he sent me a text message telling me that he can’t wait to get going and hopefully we could be the best duo in the league,” Smith said on Wednesday. “I was telling him, man, like the D-line, we got to come up with a name for the room. So he’s like, ‘I’m going to get some shirts. We’re going to make it big.’ So that chemistry already, I could tell is going to be great this year.”
Smith got off to a scorching start last season with 8.5 sacks in his first seven games, finishing with 10 and being named to his third Pro Bowl.
The Browns will also have Okoronkwo in the mix with Garrett and Smith. Okoronkwo played in all 17 games last season with the Houston Texans, notching eight starts. He tallied 44 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, 17 quarterback pressures and five sacks.
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