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AP photo by David Richard / Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, right, hits Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with a helmet near the end of their AFC North matchup on Nov. 14 2019, in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett knows his shocking, helmet-swinging assault on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph last season will always follow him. It's part of his legacy, and there's nothing he can do about that.

He said he won't let it define him.

"My life is bigger than one moment," Garrett said Thursday.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since Nov. 14, when he ripped off Rudolph's helmet and struck him over the head with it during the closing seconds of a nationally televised game, Garrett touched on a wide range of topics during a 25-minute video conference call.

The 24-year-old former Texas A&M standout, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, said he has not had any communication with Rudolph or Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin since the ugly incident, for which he was suspended six games by the NFL. He has said in the past that Rudolph used a racial slur toward him. He hopes they can eventually work through any differences.

"I do not have any ill intent towards either of them," he said. "If we are able to talk, we will deal with things as grown men, and that is fine by me. I am just going to keep my eyes forward and keep focused on the plan and the goal."

On Wednesday, Garrett signed a five-year, $125 million contract extension — $100 million guaranteed — making him the league's highest-paid defensive player. He is grateful the Browns never wavered in their support after the incident with Rudolph, and they believe Garrett has only scratched the surface of his potential.

He thinks so, too, and wants to reward the Browns for their loyalty.

"Now it is time to prove it," he said. "They have faith in me, and now I have to give them a reason to have that faith. ... Now that they have put that banner on me that I am the highest-paid, I have to insert myself as the top dog."

In the nearly eight months that have passed since that moment against the Steelers, Garrett has spent time reflecting on his career and where he wants to take it. One of the game's premier pass rushers, Garrett isn't satisfied with just being good.

He's chasing greatness — for himself and the Browns, who haven't made the playoffs since 2002 and are coming off a hugely disappointing season.

"Whether it starts this year or how many years it takes," he said, "I want to lead Cleveland to that promise land."

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AP file photo by Adam Hunger / Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett

Garrett knows the attack on Rudolph is certain to lead to more accusations that he's a dirty player. Even before he tore off Rudolph's helmet, Garrett had been penalized and fined for other aggressive play last season. Despite the perceptions, Garrett has no plans to change his style.

"I do not think I will be walking on eggshells when I am on the field, racking my brain about not trying to be a dirty player, because I have never been that," he said. "I am just going to do my best to play within the rules and play to the best of my ability. ... The media is going to say whatever they want about me. I am what you say I am. I am just going to play the game how I have always played it, and that is not dirty.

"However it seems, I want the respect of my family and friends and some of my peers. I respect those around me, who I have grown up with, played with and who have earned my respect. Other than that, whatever is said goes by the wayside."

The offseason has been a time for workouts and reflection for Garrett. He was personally moved by the recent nationwide protests calling for racial justice and reached out to two families who lost loved ones during the unrest and offered to pay for their funerals.

Garrett intends to do more with his platform to help people in northeast Ohio and in his home state of Texas as well as "those who I have not met and can't reach yet."

He also wishes the NFL would do more to affect social change. The league's acknowledgment that it should have done a better job of listening to its players was a good start, Garrett said, but he wants more — including in its remorse toward former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

"I feel like they should have a bigger voice," he said. "They have so much access to resources. They should be able to speak up. I believe Kap deserves an apology. I know it is one thing to stand behind us and supporting our efforts, but they should be standing beside us in what we are doing. I feel like they should be right there beside us trying to lead the charge."

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