Myles Garrett realizes his historic contract extension only raises the enormous expectations Browns fans have had for his career since he became the first overall pick in 2017.
The star defensive end acknowledged Thursday there is a greater degree of pressure being heaped on him because he signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension Wednesday, thereby becoming the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history.
"Now I have to assert myself as the top dog, and I feel like I'm confident and ready to do that," Garrett said during a Zoom video conference, speaking with Browns beat writers for the first time since he received a season-ending suspension from the league on Nov. 15.
New Browns General Manager Andrew Berry bet on Garrett bouncing back after he became known as one of the most controversial figures in sports. The league forced Garrett to sit out the final six games of last season because he hit Mason Rudolph over the head with the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback's helmet on Nov. 14 in the final seconds of a "Thursday Night Football" game at FirstEnergy Stadium.
It was the organization's most significant show of support for Garrett. A day after the league reinstated Garrett on Feb. 12, he told ESPN's Mina Kimes that Rudolph called him a "stupid N-word" in the buildup to the helmet swing, an accusation Rudolph has denied.
Garrett had 10 sacks through 10 games when the league doled out its punishment, but no one truly knows whether he will be the same player in the aftermath of the ugly incident.
"I don't want to be the same player I was last year," Garrett said. "I want to be better in all aspects. I mean, even on that trajectory, I was in the Defensive Player of the Year conversation. So I don't want to make it a conversation anymore. This next year, I want to ball out, win that award, but I want to take my team to the playoffs and even higher than that."
Garrett is as comfortable with his goal to lead the Browns to their first Super Bowl as he is with a long-term commitment to a franchise whose identity since 1999 is best defined by losing and dysfunction.
"There's no reservations for me because I kind of like that the history is what it is 'cause later it'll only make it so much sweeter when we turn this thing around and actually start winning big games, winning playoff games and finally get to that last one," Garrett said. "So I'd like to be a part of that. I'd like to lead the pack for that. So whenever we do that, whether it starts next year or however many years it takes, I want to lead Cleveland to that promised land."