A little more than 12 hours after an ugly fight marred a Thursday night win for the Browns, coach Freddie Kitchens spoke with reporters as the dust continued to settle around him.
His message: Myles Garrett is sorry for what happened and Kitchens' team will support Garrett as a family does a brother. But they'll also have to ensure Garrett's actions don't serve as the reason for their downfall.
"He understands the magnitude of what occurred last night and he's very remorseful," Kitchens said of Garrett. "He's very sorry for his actions. He understands he let himself down, he let his teammates down, he let his organization down."
The Browns gathered Friday at the team's facility to attempt to put together the pieces left on the ground by the altercation that resulted in an indefinite suspension for Garrett, a one-game ban for teammate Larry Ogunjobi and a three-game suspension for Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey. Garrett took the time to apologize to his teammates, who accepted it and expressed their support for the third-year defensive end.
"He just wanted to apologize to us. Said he lost his cool," BrownsPro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio said Friday. "Said it was a moment of weakness, it never should have gotten to that point and he's going to prove to us that was one incident on his radar. ... He feels like he's letting us down obviously that he's not going to be out there with us on gamedays."
Thursday night's fight could be seen as a capper to what has been an unusually aggressive campaign from Garrett, who was not shy about his Defensive Player of the Year aspirations going into the season but has let such desires bubble over into detrimental extracurricular activity. Garrett's head slap in Week 1 against Tennessee drew a flag, as did his roughing penalties in Week 2 against New York.
Garrett had tightened up those loose ends, though, and seemed back on track in his pursuit of becoming the NFL's sack champion. Then the final 30 seconds arrived Thursday night, when everything unraveled for him.
"Myles has done a good job of eliminating those things from his game," Kitchens said Friday. "He just let his emotions and lost his composure last night when things got like that."
The last part of Bitonio's quote is true. The Browns will undoubtedly miss Garrett's game-changing impact in the team's final six games. As they attempt to run the table in a playoff push, they'll need to find a way to replace his efforts.
Bitonio sensed the chaos and its potential to consume his team in the immediate moments after Thursday's 21-7 win, and gave a brief, impassioned speech to his teammates, emphasizing the importance of togetherness and working toward a common goal. That goal -- the playoffs -- is still in sight, even if the space for viewing is as wide as that between a floor and a drafty front door.
That means the Browns will have to support Garrett as much as they can -- "We consider ourself a family. When someone's hurting, when someone's feeling like this, we're going to stand behind them," Kitchens said -- but also try not to drag with them into Week 12 the baggage he's collected. Such an effort will require veteran leadership from players like Bitonio, who has already seen plenty in his time with the Browns.
"It wasn't the way you wanted to win a game," Bitonio admitted. "It definitely felt different. ... We've got to come back Monday and refocus. I know it's a really big blow, you lose a couple guys, one for the season and one for a week. ... If we can just refocus and start focusing on the Miami Dolphins, I think that's going to be a big step for us. Win or lose, there should be a new focus come Monday."