CLEVELAND — Myles Garrett practiced.
For the Browns, that’s enough to celebrate.
"We almost started to throw a little party to see him back out there," defensive back James McCourty said. "We should have had him introduce himself to the defence again."
The top overall pick in this year’s draft, Garrett returned to the practice field for the first time in three weeks on Thursday, increasing the possibility he could make his regular-season debut Sunday against Cincinnati.
Garrett has missed Cleveland’s first three games with a high right ankle sprain, leaving a hole in Cleveland’s defence and depriving the Browns a chance to see a player they believe could change their franchise’s fortunes.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder stretched, ran and joined Cleveland’s defensive lineman as they went through individual drills during the portion of practice open to the media.
Afterward, coach Hue Jackson said Garrett "looked like Myles" but wouldn’t go as far as saying the rookie defensive end will play Sunday.
"We will continue to evaluate, see where he is and kind of go from there," Jackson said. "But it was good to have him back out there, running around, making plays and doing all of that. We will see where he is."
Garrett got hurt on Sept. 6 when a teammate inadvertently fell on his ankle during practice.
At the time, the Browns said he would need at least a month to recover, but the 21-year-old has come back quicker than expected.
It’s possible he’ll be used only in obvious pass-rush situations this week, but Jackson said the team will continue to take a restrained approach with him.
"I want to make sure that we cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s and talk to the medical staff about what the expectation would be of him and what we are going to do," Jackson said.
"He is a huge piece of our organization and our future. We want to be cautious but smart as we go through it. I think we are getting closer, than we are further away."
Garrett, who was listed as "limited" on the injury report, has a brief history with injuries, lending to the Browns’ reserved plan.
He sprained his foot during the spring and was limited by an ankle sprain during his junior season at Texas A&M.
Jackson said he’ll watch videotape of the practice to make sure Garrett did not favour the ankle.
Also, how Garrett’s ankle responds after a full practice will have a major influence on whether he plays.
Cleveland’s pass rush has struggled without Garrett on the edge, and the Browns are eager to see him impact games with his speed and presence.
"The better players you have out there, the better you are going to be," McCourty said. "It sounds so simple, but I just think that is what it is.
"Myles was the No. 1 overall pick for a reason. I think we all know he possesses a special type of talent. Just having that calibre of talented player out on the field, we will all benefit from it."
NOTES: DT Danny Shelton sustained a calf injury on Wednesday and the team is awaiting MRI results. "It doesn’t feel too bad, but we will see what the doc says," Shelton said. … LB Jamie Collins remains in concussion protocol.