Bryant leaves sub-par season, foot injury in the past

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comMay 28, 2013 

A torn plantar fascia in his foot negatively affected his play for the second half of the 2012 season. But Seattle Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant says he’s now healthy and ready for a return to being a dominant force in defending the run, as he was two years ago.

“It’s behind me,” he said. “It’s something I constantly dealt with, making sure I take better care of my body. It was unfortunate to have that flare up midway through the season. But I fought through it, and I feel great right now.”

Part of the adjustment for Bryant will be continuing to control his weight by doing a better job of monitoring his diet. Bryant is listed at 6-foot-4, 323 pounds, but his weight fluctuates.

“I like where I’m at in terms of my agility,” Bryant said. “I’ve got to constantly work on my weight, but I like where I’m at right now. I don’t see anything that’s going to stop me from taking that next step and being considered the top five (in) technique in the game. That’s definitely my goal.”

Bryant should benefit from the return of defensive line coach Dan Quinn, who spent two years away from Seattle to serve as the University of Florida’s defensive coordinator. Quinn was named the Seahawks’ defensive coordinator after Gus Bradley moved on to take the head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Quinn originally thought of moving Bryant from defensive tackle to a run-stuffing defensive end in Seattle’s hybrid 3-4 scheme, which revitalized Bryant’s NFL career. Bryant said he’ll return to being more of a penetrating, one-gap defensive end and playing mostly over the right tackle.

“It’s been great getting DQ (Dan Quinn) back because there’s familiarity there,” Bryant said. “There’s just some subtle changes in terms of how he’s going to play me. He’s basically putting me back to where I’m going to be on the tackle the majority of the time, in a phone booth and just getting back to the basics of playing heavy on a guy and just being disruptive.”

Bryant said that last season he followed the tight end wherever he lined up and was not as aggressive as he usually is when lined up against a tackle.

And it showed in his play. Bryant finished with just 24 tackles and no sacks in 2012, after signing a lucrative five-year, $35 million deal in the offseason.

The Seahawks finished a respectable 10th in the league in rushing defense, allowing an average of 103.1 yards a contest. However, according to Football Outsiders, on first-and-10 carries when trailing or leading by two scores during the second half of the season, the Seahawks allowed opponents to average 5.6 yards per rush attempt, which was 30th in the league.

Bryant hopes the slight change in technique will help get him back to being stout at the point of attack to stop the opponent’s run game.

Bryant also said he will get an opportunity to rush the passer as a defensive tackle in passing situations. The Texas A&M product usually came off the field on third down. Bryant has just two sacks in five seasons.

“It will give me an opportunity to push the pocket, or give me an opportunity to try and clear up some holes for some of our blitz packages,” Bryant said. “(Quinn) is just giving me an opportunity to showcase that I’m more than just a line of scrimmage player. I feel like for what we’re doing with the edge rushers we’ve got, a little bit more push up the middle — whether it be from me, or (Brandon) Mebane or Clinton McDonald — it will help the overall defense.”

Bryant understands other players along the defensive line will have to fill the void left by defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons.

Irvin was suspended the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Clemons’ availability is a question mark while he rehabs from ACL knee surgery.

“It’s definitely going to be an opportunity for other guys to step in and have a big role for us,” Bryant said. “That’s the National Football League. That’s no different than a guy you’re counting on getting injured, and you have to move on. You recognize the issue, and then the next guy has to step up.”

Bryant also recognizes that he and other veteran players will have to keep the rest of his teammates focused and humble. Several national publications pick the Seahawks to contend for a Super Bowl title this upcoming season.

Bryant, one of four players on the roster when Pete Carroll took over as head coach in January 2010 who is still here, still remembers Seattle’s four consecutive losing seasons compared with finishing 30 seconds short of reaching the NFC championship game last season.

“It’s definitely a different vibe,” Bryant said. “Even when I’m in the grocery store in the community, more and more people recognize who you are; more and more people are excited about the season and the expectations are a lot different from when I first got here in the league. And so that can be a great thing, or it can be a burden as well, if you don’t stay focused.

“All of our guys that (were) on the 4-12 team, and on the 5-11 team, we all know what it took to get to this point. And so it’s our job to continue to let the younger guys — the guys that we’re counting on — let them know this is what you have to do. All that other stuff, that’s for everybody else. We have to get back to the basics. And the basics are working hard, being accountable to your team and doing the little things.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams

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