Defensive end Myles Garrett struggled with COVID-19 but feels good again and is back to defying the laws of physics.
“I know his pass rush moves are still there,” left guard Joel Bitonio said Thursday. “He got some one-on-ones yesterday, and he was still bending and moving the way he always moves. There was a move today where I thought he was going to fall, and he just somehow keeps his feet and can turn the corner better than anybody in this league.
“I think he is back. I think his legs feel good. He says he is feeling good now. The first week was a little tough with the symptoms and everything, but since then he has felt a lot better, and I think he is going to be ready to roll this weekend.”
Garrett was activated off the COVID reserve list Tuesday and returned to practice Wednesday. He missed two games and two weeks of practice and tested positive Nov. 20.
He was a full participant in practice Wednesday and Thursday and will play Sunday against the Titans in Tennessee. Garrett’s expected to talk to reporters Friday after practice.
Garrett should help the defense as it tries to slow down league-leading Titans running back Derrick Henry. The coaches and medical staff will use the practice week to determine how much Garrett can play Sunday.
“We’re going to make sure that we’re smart about how we get him back out there,” coach Kevin Stefanski said.
“We’re talking to him. He feels good,” coordinator Joe Woods said. “There’s all type of technological advances where we can see where he’s at, as well. We’ll know what he’s capable of on Sunday.”
Garrett is tied for third in the league with 9.5 sacks and tied for second with four forced fumbles.
“Anytime you can get one of the best pass rushers in the league back in the lineup, it’s going to bring some excitement to everybody on the team,” cornerback Kevin Johnson said.
Fullback Andy Janovich also returned Wednesday after testing positive and missing two games.
“Andy looked great,” Stefanski said. “He’s excited to get out here.”
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
Baker Mayfield has gone 123 passes without an interception after throwing seven in his first 171 attempts this season. He threw 21 interceptions last year, the second most in the league.
“It’s really a mindset,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said of the change. “We do talk about it, we don’t talk a lot about it. When you get out there, it can backfire on you. But surely the mindset, I’m not going to turn the ball over. He’s really grasped that now, the last four or five weeks.
“Just understanding the importance of turnovers, giveaways and how that’s a big part of our success is not turning the football over.”
Van Pelt said quarterbacks are always searching for the perfect balance between not throwing interceptions and being aggressive.
“You look at the turnover ratio and how critical that is to the team’s success,” he said. “We’re going to be aggressive, he’s going to make the right decisions, it’s finding that balance of when to take that risk. That changes throughout the course of a game. It’s understanding the importance of not turning that ball over is critical.
“I would gladly take a 5-yard gain over a 20-yard chance of an interception. I think that’s the mindset we have to take.”
Receiver KhaDarel Hodge provided potential bulletin-board material Monday when he said the Titans aren’t a “super team.” He also said he envisions the Browns making a deep playoff run.
Stefanski was asked if he talked to Hodge about the comments.
“I will always keep any interactions I have with the players internal,” Stefanski said. “I will just tell you, I support our players. I am not the thought police. I am not going to tell them what to think. But I do make sure that they understand what is important is how we work, and we are not about bluster. We are about just making sure we put our work in.”
Hodge (hamstring) was added to the injury report Thursday as limited. He missed four games earlier this season after straining a hamstring warming up before the Cowboys game Oct. 4.
Bitonio heard Hodge’s comments but isn’t one to get motivated by what a teammate or opponent says before a game.
“Some people do it, I think it’s a great storyline and I think people run with it,” Bitonio said. “But I know when I go out there I have to play my best game, and hopefully my teammates come out there and play their best game. We know we’re playing a good team. They were in the AFC championship last year.
“But we’ve got our guys’ back. Whatever they want to go do we have to go back it up when we play on Sundays.”
OH, CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
Bitonio made Stefanski look good for naming him the game captain for the 27-25 win over the Jaguars on Sunday. His block sprung Nick Chubb on the screen pass that picked up the first down that sealed the win.
“Joel has been playing great all year long,” coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “He got a game ball last week. I thought it was his best performance of the year.”
Bitonio appreciated being picked as captain.
“Anytime you can lead your team out there and just try and be that leadership position for your team, it is an honor,” he said. “It was cool to do it. I am glad we got the win.”
TAKING IT WELL
D’Ernest Johnson replaced rookie Donovan Peoples-Jones as the kickoff returner for the last two games and made the decision look good with a 31-yard average on three returns against the Jaguars. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer said Peoples-Jones handled the demotion well.
“Like a pro. He is an amazing young man. I am proud of him,” Priefer said. “That is hard for a young player who came in and we drafted him to be a returner.
“I think D’Ernest provided a little bit of juice for us on kickoff return last week, and that was very evident. Donovan was a big part of that. He did a great job lead blocking, and he blew up the kicker on the one.”
Priefer believes Peoples-Jones has the right skill set — big, strong, fast — to return kickoffs but is hurt by a lack of experience. He remains the punt returner.
Safety Sheldrick Redwine (knee) was a full participant in practice after not playing against the Jaguars and being limited Wednesday.
** For the Titans, receiver A.J. Brown (hip), linebacker Harold Landry (illness) and tackle Isaiah Wilson (illness) were added to the injury report and didn’t practice. Cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (knee), guard Rodger Saffold III (ankle) and tight end Jonnu Smith (knee) didn’t practice for the second straight day, and right tackle Dennis Kelly (knee) went from limited to not practicing.
** Stefanski didn’t have an update on defensive ends Porter Gustin and Joe Jackson and linebacker Sione Takitaki, who remained on the COVID list.
** Garrett (141,415 votes), Bitonio (86,981) and Janovich (80,350) are the leading AFC vote-getters for the Pro Bowl at their positions. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes tops everyone with 206,525 votes.