Hall of Fame defensive end Bruce Smith was a guest of coach Hue Jackson and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, and Smith was an involved participant with the defensive line. Several times during the day’s work, Smith spoke one-on-one with Garrett on the field.
“I don’t believe that I was as receptive as a rookie as he is,” Smith said. “This young man is mature beyond his years. That’s a tribute to his humbleness and his upbringing by his parents.”
Smith also clarified the remark relayed by Garrett from the time the pair watched Garrett’s college tape on the day of the draft. Garrett said Smith told him he was slow off the ball. Smith said there was a little more involved in his analysis.
“I want to be specific about that,” Smith said, “because I made it clear when I was studying film with him when he was drafted. I said occasionally he’s slow off the ball. He’s just a little late off the ball. And that happens to the best of us.
“But as this process unfolds, he will understand how critical it is that every single snap, every single play, particularly when you’re playing at home and the offense can’t hear the snap count, that can be the difference between getting a sack and a forced fumble or just getting a hit on the quarterback.
“That’s how critical even single snap off the line of scrimmage is in this particular game.”
Garrett was not with the first team for every snap the starters took, but he was on the first two snaps of 11-on-11.
“It was fun,” Garrett said. “It’s exciting to go against No. 73 [Joe Thomas] and all of the first-teamers. That’s something I’m looking forward to doing this season. Just going against that level of talent, it gets me juiced and ready for our opponents.”
With Thomas taking part in the entire practice, Garrett quickly got a lesson. On his first two rushes, Thomas stonewalled Garrett, but Garrett later got past Thomas on a speed rush that Smith said was a “great rush.”
“I think I beat him on the last rush,” Garrett said. “But there was a rush where I tried to ‘bull,’ and he started to slow me down. Then [Joel] Bitonio came and basically stopped me in my tracks. I heard Joe whisper to me, ‘nice try.’ That’s going against one of the world’s best. You’re going to get better each day by doing that.”
The Browns and Smith relish the opportunity for Garrett to learn as much as he can from Thomas.
“Joe can be an invaluable asset to Myles,” Smith said. “To be able to communicate with him after a play is over, after a pass rush, he can teach him how to be dominant player much quicker if he talks to him and communicates with him and tells him what he did wrong and what he did right, as opposed to him remaining silent.
“Him engaging and playing and getting as much action against Joe as he possibly can is critical.”
Coach Hue Jackson said it was mere coincidence that Smith happened to be at practice on the day Garrett moved up. Jackson simply said that Garrett earned the first-team time.
“You can only keep guys down so long,” Jackson said.
Smith summed up his impression of the draft’s first overall pick by saying that he is “off to a great start.”
“It’s not going to take him long to figure this game out,” Smith said. “Obviously, there’s always a learning curve, but he can be an impact player in his first year.”