CLEVELAND — If Myles Garrett defends opponents on the football field as well as head of football operations Sashi Brown defends Garrett off the field, the Browns will be pleased with their No. 1 overall draft pick.
Brown went to bat for Garrett on Wednesday during a luncheon with the Press Club of Cleveland at FirstEnergy Stadium, justifying the defensive end's comments that drew the attention of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and some of his teammates.
On draft day, former NFL wide receiver and ESPN analyst Randy Moss asked Garrett which AFC North quarterback he's most eager to meet.
"Big Ben," Garrett said with a smile. "Super Bowl winner and I always heard he's hard to take down. So I'm coming for him first, chop him down."
Roethlisberger recently made it clear the Steelers will use Garrett's comments as bulletin-board material while they prepare to visit the Browns on Sept. 10 for the regular-season opener.
"I was talking to [Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey] after Garrett called me out," Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Pounce got a big kick out of it. All of my linemen enjoyed hearing it. They can't wait to get started. I can't, either."
Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert tweeted, "See you 9/10 big fella. ... You'll get your shot pup."
So during Wednesday's question-and-answer session with the audience, Brown was asked about Garrett saying he would hurt Roethlisberger.
"I don't think you guys could probably relate to the amount of attention that this young man or anybody who's going to be a No. 1 draft pick has," Brown said. "People are asking him to do all kinds of bits and pieces and interviews and photo shoots and inevitably at 21 — and I think we have to keep proper perspective — this is a 21-year-old young man who's wise beyond his years. Just to correct, he didn't say he'd hurt Ben. He did say he'd take him down.
"You have to spend time with him. You have to understand what his values are. He's very confident in his abilities. He works his tail off. In terms of our research, what we found is he's about as hard a worker as any college prospect as we've had. He's been a double-digit sacks guy throughout his career, has played through injury, is extremely talented.
"I just don't think the 160-carat tweets and the headlines that get taken out of context often should reflect who the person is. It's easy in this world to judge based on headlines. I think increasingly we're finding — and Donald Trump's finding this out — how difficult it is to survive in a public job, and that's what being a No. 1 draft pick is for about three or four months, and now he's going to understand it's a longer-term deal that he asked for and he wants it.
"We're not scared of it. Myles, I think you'll find, if you go back and look at his press conference, has the right amount of levity balancing that confidence."
The member of the audience who asked the question also pointed out that, according to NFL Network reporter Michael Silver, new Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told Garrett and first-round pick Jabrill Peppers not to "write checks your ass can't cash" before their pre-draft news conference.
"Gregg tells all of us not to talk that way, and then he goes out and talks that way," Brown quipped, "which is the best part."
In an interview with ESPN the Magazine before the draft, Garrett said he wanted to break several sack records, win prestigious awards and become the greatest player of all time.
The Browns were obviously comfortable with Garrett's decision not to hide his ambition.
Brown explained they spent a half day with four or five of their top-rated prospects before the draft, and Garrett was one of them.
"As much as the talent matters, at this level, character is a grand separator, and Myles is a guy who is fairly soft spoken but is confident," Brown said. "So he's not a braggart. He's not a wilted flower, either. He's probably said some things and recognizing at that microphone things get twisted a little bit differently when the whole national media's on it.
"He's very confident in what he wants to do, he's very competitive, deliberate. He's very bright, intelligent, scored incredibly well on some of the psychological testing we did with him, and he comes from a solid family. ... He's kind of a boring kid, in some ways, which is a great thing for us that he will say that about himself."
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