BEREA — In the eyes of defensive coordinator Joe Woods, Myles Garrett has not let the Browns down as a leader this season.
But from the outside looking in, it’s fair to question whether there is a disconnect between the coaching staff and the team’s best defender.
An All-Pro defensive end and captain, Garrett was benched for the opening series of Saturday’s 17-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints for an undisclosed disciplinary reason, with Browns coach Kevin Stefanski explaining the decision belonged to him.
On Thursday, Woods said Garrett has achieved his goal to continue to rise as a leader this season, despite the brief benching this past weekend. In the next breath, Woods explained disciplinary issues have repeatedly emerged among defensive players in 2022.
“I thought [Garrett] definitely stepped up from the offseason throughout the season and tried to be [a better leader],” Woods said. “You have to be a leader in your own way. Some guys are leaders vocally, some guys are leaders by example and I think he’s a little bit of both. But I felt like he stepped up and did a good job.
“We just obviously don’t want to have any issues. Throughout the year, we’ve had multiple issues with certain guys, so those are definitely things we want to clean up. But in terms of him as a leader, I felt like he really tried to step up and do a good job for us this year.”
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What’s odd is the Browns (6-9), who will visit the Washington Commanders (7-7-1) on Sunday, punished Garrett this time around but not for his frightening one-vehicle accident on Sept. 26. A history of speeding tickets preceded the crash, which also involved Garrett, by his own admission, driving too fast.
Garrett, who turned 27 on Thursday, is expected to address the media Friday.
As for other players who have been disciplined by the coaching staff this season, rookie defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey and safety Grant Delpit are among them.
Woods and Stefanski declined to elaborate on the reason for disciplining Garrett, who was recently selected to his fourth Pro Bowl.
“That’s an internal decision,” Woods said.
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Garrett didn’t practice Dec. 20 or Dec. 21, and the Browns listed him as out with an illness on their injury report. He played 36 of 54 snaps (67%) against the Saints (6-9), whose first outdoor win this season mathematically eliminated the Browns from playoff contention in Cleveland’s second-coldest home game in franchise history.
The Browns defense registered a three-and-out with Garrett sidelined to begin the game, but was Garrett sitting out the first series a big deal for other reasons?
“No, I would want him out there all the time, but we try to rest him,” Woods said. “You always want your best guys on the field in those pass-rush situations at the end of the game.”
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Garrett compiled three tackles against the Saints. This season, he has tallied 45 tackles, including a team-high 13½ sacks, which is ranked fourth in the NFL.
After Garrett’s 2021 Porsche 911 Turbo rolled several times, he dealt with shoulder and biceps injuries suffered in the accident. The shoulder injury has lingered.
Woods was asked whether the Browns have gotten the best from Garrett while preparing for games this year.
“Myles has been fighting through it,” Wood said. “I mean, there’s times when he’s not out there practicing. He’s dealing with injuries, especially his upper-body injuries. But when he gets out there, he gives us his best.”
For the Browns to finally reach their potential, they need many things, including Garrett’s best.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @ByNateUlrich.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns disciplining Myles Garrett downplayed by Joe Woods