Defensive end Myles Garrett practiced Thursday and Friday in a limited role but said his groin injury isn’t noticeably better than when he managed just a quarterback hit and a tackle assist last Saturday during the 24-22 loss to the Packers.
“I am probably about the same as Saturday. I still feel it,” Garrett, who was voted a Pro Bowl starter for the second straight year, said Friday. “I feel it every time I torque or try to come out of my stance. When I am picking my legs up out of my stance, that explosive movement hurts, but like any kind of explosive movement where it is going left, right or forward, I do feel it.”
Garrett was injured in the fourth quarter of the 16-14 loss to the Raiders on Dec. 20. He finished the game and vowed to keep playing no matter the pain and severity of the injury.
The commitment to the team was the latest impressive act by Garrett.
“He showed me a lot,” defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said. “He definitely has the heart of a lion. I think has been showing that throughout the season. The guy goes out there and competes play in and play out, going against two or three people and win.
“The team and the people around him depend on him. Of course, we depend on him. Him going out there to show he can play through adversity and injuries is very, very upside for him and the team.”
Garrett led the league in sacks for much of the year but with two games left ranks third with 15, 2.5 behind leader T.J. Watt of the Steelers. Garrett doesn’t have a sack in the last two games.
“His get-off is probably one of the best in the league, if not the best. I did not see him getting off like he normally got off throughout the games,” Clowney said, referring to the Packers game. “He was saying he is feeling a lot better, so I hope we get it going this week.”
Garrett practiced this week after sitting out last week because he wanted repetitions with teammates while working on coming off the ball and stopping the run. He didn’t finish the last two seasons as he’d like — suspension in 2019, COVID-19 last year — and vowed before the season to dominate from beginning to end.
“I have to. It is kind of on us and it is kind of on me to step up and make some plays that will put us in the win column because we have to win,” he said. “I feel like I need to call upon myself to be the person I need to be and they need me to be.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski hopes Clowney was right and Garrett is feeling better.
“It would be good for us if he finishes strong,” he said. “I hope he is feeling like himself on Monday night, but it is important he plays well. He is a huge part of our defensive attack.”
JUST ONE MISS
Chris Naggar sealed his fate with his first NFL kick — a missed extra point vs. the Packers. He rebounded to make a 37-yard field goal and extra point, but the Browns cut him from the practice squad this week, replacing him with Chris Blewitt.
“When you bring up an emergency kicker, the expectation is at least make PATs, especially on a nice night,” coordinator Mike Priefer said.
Chase McLaughlin missed the Packers game on the COVID reserve list but is back. He has missed five of his last nine field goals, but Priefer said he hit the ball well Thursday on field goals and kickoffs.
“So I am very confident in Chase,” he said.
The Browns worked out Blewitt in March.
Priefer said it was tough to cut punter Jamie Gillan last week in favor of veteran Dustin Colquitt but “we needed a little bit more … going down the stretch.” Gillan, in his third year, was cut after returning from the COVID list.
“I like Jamie as a person. He is a fine young man. He has worked extremely hard,” Priefer said. “He has a big-time leg, he is talented and I am sure he will punt again in this league.”
Gillan’s best year was as an undrafted rookie, when he averaged 46.2 yards. He slipped to 44.0 in 2020 and 43.9 last year. Priefer said Gillan struggled to get into a rhythm the last two years with fewer opportunities.
“That is no excuse. He still needs to be more consistent,” Priefer said.
Running back Kareem Hunt (ankle) practiced for the first time since getting hurt Dec. 12 vs. the Ravens. He was limited.
** Rookie linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (illness) was a full participant after not practicing Thursday.
** Garrett, safety Ronnie Harrison Jr. (ankle) and defensive tackle Malik Jackson (knee) were also limited.
** Safety John Johnson III (hamstring), nickelback Troy Hill (knee) and center JC Tretter (knee/normally scheduled day off) didn’t practice.
** For the Steelers, linebacker Joe Schobert and defensive lineman Chris Wormley were placed on the COVID list. Punter Pressley Harvin III (personal), center Kendrick Green (calf) and linebacker Buddy Johnson (foot) didn’t practice for the second straight day.
Stefanski was glad to get back Tretter after he was out vs. the Packers with COVID. He hadn’t missed a snap since signing with the Browns in 2017.
“JC is very, very smart. He is playing at a high level for us,” Stefanski said.
Nick Harris, a fifth-round pick in 2020, filled in admirably in his first start at center.
“He played hard. He played physical. He had great effort,” Stefanski said. “He had a bunch of good reps. That is kind of what he has shown over the two years being with him. I think you saw his skill set certainly in that game.”
Stefanski wouldn’t reveal who’ll start at right tackle. Rookie James Hudson III is the likely candidate after being given the job when Jack Conklin was lost for the season Nov. 28 with a torn patellar tendon. But Hudson started only one game after Conklin’s injury before missing the next two after testing positive for COVID.
** Woods said he would embrace the opportunity to interview for a head coach job but isn’t worried about it.
“I am really focused on winning this game,” he said.
** Defensive line coach Chris Kiffin and offensive assistant T.C. McCartney are back after having tested positive.
** Running back John Kelly (ankle) was placed on the practice squad injured list.