Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett Says Crazy Season Has Prepared Team For Crazy Playoff Game

 Cleveland Browns’ Myles Garrett Says Crazy Season Has Prepared Team For Crazy Playoff Game

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Pittsburgh Steelers v Cleveland Browns

CLEVELAND, OHIO – JANUARY 03: Defensive end Myles Garrett #95 of the Cleveland Browns waits for the … [+] next play during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on January 03, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Steelers 24-22. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

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Kevin Stefanski has a saying he likes to repeat to his players. 

You don’t rise to the occasion, Stefanski tells the Browns, you fall to the level of your preparation. Myles Garrett shared that mantra on Friday when asked about the COVID-19-induced predicament the Browns find themselves in before the franchise’s first playoff game in 18 years. 

Sunday night’s Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers will require several Browns to “rise.” From practice squad guard Michael Dunn filling Joel Bitonio’s shoes to special teams coach Mike Priefer wearing Stefanski’s headset, the Browns are counting on several names thrive in advanced roles.

Garrett believes in both Dunn and Priefer’s ability to fulfill their newfound duties. Not because they were born to succeed in crisis, but because they’re professionals. They’ve been preparing for this opportunity their entire lives. 

“It is just how you how you treat yourself and how you prepare as a pro,” Garrett said. “You are paid to be a performer, no matter where you sit on the depth chart – first or third. You are paid because you are one of the best in the world at your job, and you need to step up and show that.”

Priefer has been asked to step up once before. Back in 2016, he coached the Vikings for a week after coach Mike Zimmer had eye surgery the day before the game (Minnesota lost 17-15 to the Cowboys). 

Stefanski was the running backs coach on that staff, part of his 14-year stint with Minnesota’s organization. Priefer was his co-worker for eight of them, which means he knows how Stefanski thinks. He said he will try to replicate Stefanski’s decision-making and, overall, “be an extension of” Stefanski on Sunday.

Similarly, offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said he wants to “stay true to” Stefanski’s offensive beliefs. But Van Pelt acknolwedged that no two coaches will call plays the same way. 

Van Pelt’s goal is to avoid upsetting Stefanski at home. 

“My hope is at the end of the game there are not too many times where he is yelling at his TV going, ‘What the heck are you doing,’” Van Pelt joked.

For his part, Stefanski said he has full confidence in both the coaches and players accepting additional responsibilities this week. Through 17 weeks, the Browns have established an coherent identity. Stefanski trusts that will sustain despite personnel changes. 

While the Browns shuffle bodies —Stefanski, Bitonio KhaDarel Hodge, Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson will all spend Sunday’s game on the Reserve/COVID 19 list — Pittsburgh is calling reinforcements. 

Starters Ben Roethlisberger, T.J. Watt, Cam Heyward, Terrell Edmunds, and Maurice Pouncey — none of whom who played in Cleveland’s 24-22 win over the Steelers last week — will return on Sunday. 

What’s one more obstacle for the Browns, though? From injuries (Grant Delpit, Odell Beckham Jr.), to extreme weather (weeks 8-11), to the Reserve/COVID-19 list (who hasn’t been on it, at this point), Cleveland has been navigating adversity all season. 

You might they’ve been preparing for it. Stefanski would, but he has to quarantine. So allow Garrett to paraphrase.

“We have been in that role all year,” Garrett said. “We have been in that role since I have been here. Nothing has changed. Our backs are against the wall, and we are going to fight out of it and fight off of it.”