By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Myles Garrett is getting Hall of Fame help.
On the same day he took snaps with Cleveland’s starting defense, Garrett got a visit at training camp from Bruce Smith, the NFL’s career sacks leader who believes the No. 1 overall pick could be destined for greatness.
“A very intelligent young man, so 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.”
The Browns are counting on Garrett making an impact for the next decade, and the 21-year-old has already made quite a first impression with his ability and attitude.
Since camp opened, Garrett has voluntarily stayed on the field long after practice ends to run 100-yard sprints and build up his stamina.
Garrett has been working with the defensive backups, but he joined the starters on Wednesday and went against Pro Bowl offensive tackle Joe Thomas for the first time.
Garrett tried to power through Thomas on one play and was stymied by the 10-time Pro Bowler. Toward the end of the workout, Garrett got off the ball quickly and beat Thomas around the outside.
“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, (offensive guard 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.”
Smith agrees. From the time he took an interest in the former Texas &M standout before the NFL draft — a meeting arranged by Garrett’s mom through the NFL players’ association — Smith felt the best thing for the young player to do was to test himself against a player of Thomas’ caliber.
“Joe can be an invaluable asset to Myles,” said Smith, who is in town for this weekend’s Hall of Fame inductions in Canton. “To be able to communicate with him after a play is over, after a pass rush, he can teach him how to be a 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.”
Browns coach Hue Jackson said there was no connection between Smith’s visit and Garrett working with the starters.
“He has earned it. I can only keep him down there for so long,” Jackson said. “You have to start pushing him up. We feel like every day when we watch the tape, you keep watching him get better and better and better and better. He is in better shape, he understands our system better and he knows exactly what to do so he is starting to play a lot better.”
Garrett isn’t taking his relationship with Smith for granted. He realizes how lucky he is to work with the top overall pick in 1985 who ended up playing 19 pro seasons — 15 in Buffalo and four in Washington.
“He’s arguably the best ever. He’s a great teacher and a great mentor,” Garrett said. “No matter what, anything I need. He’s going to come to me and tell me what he sees. And I can do the same. He’s just going to help me become a better player. He’s a great person as well and I appreciate that.”
Smith said teaching Garrett comes naturally.
“I’ve already lived through this experience, so it’s somewhat easy for me to identify to and relate to,” he said. “I don’t believe that I was as receptive as a rookie as he is. This young man is mature beyond his years, and that’s a tribute to his humbleness and his upbringing by his parents.”
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