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Browns top pick Myles Garrett working to improve 1st step after Hall of Famer Bruce Smith said he was too slow off the ball

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    Myles Garrett goes through drills during an NFL football rookie minicamp Friday in Berea.

    RON SCHWANE / AP

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BEREA -- Myles Garrett thought he had a good game last year in Texas A&M’s 31-24 overtime win over UCLA. The stat sheet concurred: a sack, 1½ tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries.

Hall of Famer Bruce Smith had a different opinion.

“He said I was slow off the ball,” Garrett, a defensive end, said Saturday during Browns rookie minicamp.

Smith has a bust in Canton after registering 200 sacks as a defensive end, mainly for the Buffalo Bills. Garrett was the No. 1 pick in the draft last month and wants to finish his career as the greatest player in NFL history.

Smith didn’t hold back when he stopped by Garrett’s house in Texas on draft day and they watched the film of the UCLA game.

“I kind of laughed a little bit,” Garrett said. “Most people wouldn’t say that, but he’s one of the greatest, if not the greatest, pass rushers, so if he thinks so -- and I want to be at this level someday -- then I’ve got to take his advice and run with it.”

Garrett’s freak athleticism is one of the reasons the Browns jumped at the chance to get him. At a chiseled 6-foot-4½ and 272 pounds, he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

Smith told him a quicker reaction at the snap would help him use his talent better.

“That’s coming from the very best and he’s just trying to teach me the tricks that I can get off the ball faster and I can do it even better,” Garrett said. “If I learn that and just keep on practicing that, I’ll perform at a high level.”

Timing and quick-twitch ability are crucial for pass rushers, as they shoot for a fast takeoff while avoiding an offside penalty.

“You are looking at the back tip (of the ball) and trying to get your first move on him so you can beat him for that first step and beat him to the midline,” Garrett said of the offensive lineman.

Smith knows new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and has agreed to help Garrett and the rest of the defensive linemen. Former All-Pro defensive lineman Clyde Simmons, who had 121.5 sacks, is the defensive line coach, but Smith will lend his expertise.

“I’m not sure when he’ll be here but I know he’ll be a presence that will mentor me and all of us to be better players on and off the field and he’s going to make us better pass rushers,” Garrett said. “He played leagues above what I am right now. If I want to get there, then I’ve got to soak in all that information, and all of that greatness.”

Garrett spent parts of practice Friday and Saturday trying to implement Smith’s advice. He wouldn’t divulge the details.

“I might be saving it for somebody special,” he said with a smile, likely referring to his first “target,” Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Garrett continues to make quite a positive early impression. Not only is his upper body a capital V from broad shoulders to slim waist, he turned down a ticket to a Cavaliers playoff game because he had other plans.

To run at his hotel.

“I’m not trying to take any time off,” he said. “I’m trying to be better every single day. I’m going to be going against the very best every single week in a couple of months so I can’t take any time off.”

Garrett said he works out twice a day, in the morning and evening. He didn’t rule out all Cavs games.

“If it doesn’t get in the way of my routine, then I’d be very happy to go, but I got big things ahead of me and for this whole team so I’m just trying to be a part of that,” he said.

Coach Hue Jackson appreciated the show of devotion.

“He is committed. He is committed to being everything that I think we want him to be on and off of the field,” Jackson said. “It can’t just be the button goes on on the field. You have to do it off of the field to be able to do it on the field. I think he gets that.

“He is as fine of a young man as I have been around. He is as fine a worker.”

Jackson loves what he’s seen so far.

“Did you see that guy come off the edge one time today?” he said. “Holy smoke. Oh my gosh.

“Athletic, fast, big, fun. The guy has flashed and shown exactly why he was drafted where he was drafted. What we have to do is continue to let him be who he is and play the way we think he can. It is exciting to see. I haven’t been around a lot of guys like him. It is fun.”

Garrett said life as the No. 1 pick is mostly the same, with a few more “random” requests to pose for pictures. He said he isn’t feeling extra pressure.

“This is what I’ve been dreaming of for I don’t know how long, so I’m going to take advantage of all the opportunities I’m given and go out there and be myself,” he said.

Without the veterans at practice, Garrett feels he hasn’t gotten the full NFL experience.

“I want to see where I stand and start building some chemistry,” he said. “Hopefully I can run with these guys and be of benefit.”

He said veteran linebackers Jamie Collins and Christian Kirksey have been welcoming but he doesn’t yet feel a part of the group.

“I have to run with them first,” he said. “They have been very nice. They have made it feel like a family, but I have to prove that I belong first, and then they can really take me under their wing.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him @scottpetrak on Twitter.



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