Not that long ago it appeared that defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback Baker Mayfield would be the cornerstones of the Cleveland Browns for years to come.
Selected at No. 1 overall in consecutive drafts, Garrett quickly became the leader of Cleveland’s defense, while Mayfield, in part due to the position he plays, was in a similar role with the offense.
That all changed following a frustrating 2021 season that saw an injured Mayfield’s on-field play take a steep dive as the Browns fell to 8-9 just a year after making the playoffs.
Life comes at you fast in the NFL, so by mid-March the Browns had secured a replacement for Mayfield in quarterback Deshaun Watson (although his availability is currently on hold thanks to an 11-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy), and Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers on July 6.
As fate would have it, the NFL schedule makers had already set the Browns to open the season on September 11 against the Panthers, giving Mayfield, who was named Carolina’s starter on Monday, and Garrett another opportunity to take center stage in a meaningful game involving the Browns.
On Tuesday, Garrett downplayed the idea that the game will have elevated importance, pointing out that there is not really a rivalry factor to the matchup, according to cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot:
“He’s my former teammate. But there’s no rivalry between me and him and there’s no rivalry between the Panthers and the Browns. Yes, he was here, but that doesn’t mean I have an added sense of urgency to get to him. I want to play my best and whatever’s in the cards, that’s it for me. If I can help my team win, if I can put them in the best position to win I’m going to do that, and if I can get a couple sacks along the way, I would kind of enjoy that too.”
Garrett said that, for now, he is focused on watching film of the Chicago Bears as the Browns prepare to host Chicago on Saturday in the final game of the preseason.
But once Saturday’s game is behind them, the Browns will turn their full attention to preparing for the Panthers and Mayfield.
And while Garrett feels no animosity toward Mayfield, it would not be surprising to see a little extra hop in the step of everyone on the defense once the game kicks off at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.