RENTON – Red Bryant finally made an impact on an NFL football field last year.
But after his season was cut short by a knee injury, the defensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks wants to prove his good play wasn’t a fluke.
“I feel pretty good,” Bryant said. “I’m just steadily getting my groove. As camp goes, I feel like I’m going to get better and better. Right now I’m having a little trouble with my conditioning. And so that’s to be expected. So once my conditioning gets up, I feel like I’ll be able to be more consistent.”
But Bryant’s quest to capitalize on last year’s momentum has been put on hold. The 27-year-old Texas A&M product has not practiced in over a week, because coach Pete Carroll chooses to have him take things slow.
Carroll said he’s uncertain if Bryant will play in Thursday’s exhibition in San Diego. At 6-foot-4, Bryant appears a little heavier than his listed 335-pound playing weight. And the team’s training staff wants to make sure that his repaired knee doesn’t take too much pounding early in camp. Bryant has had knee surgeries in two of the past three years. As a result, he has been active for only 13 of 32 regular-season games.
The lockout hampered the training staff’s ability to monitor Bryant’s rehabilitation, so they are taking a cautious approach.
“We went really hard the first couple of days and we just want to make sure he doesn’t have any type of carry over,” Carroll said. “He did well, looked good, moved well and all that. His weight is up a little bit because he hasn’t been able to work out as much as he would like to, so we’re going to work him back in and we think he fits in just right for us. We’re expecting a lot out of Red.”
When healthy, Bryant proved he can be effective.
Former Seattle defensive line coach Dan Quinn is credited with finding the right spot for Bryant’s skills by moving him to defensive end last year, where his rare combination of size and athletic ability helped lead the Seahawks to a No. 2 overall ranking in rushing defense before he injured his knee against Oakland in Week 7.
Bryant tore the medial collateral ligament and underwent surgery in November.
Good friend and fellow defensive lineman Brandon Mebane said he always believed Bryant could contribute.
“I always knew Red had a lot of talent,” Mebane said. “The main thing with Red was just bringing it out of him, just finding his niche. And I think he found it, and he’s not looking back.”
During the lockout, Mebane and Bryant worked out together at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona for a month, and they maintained a regular workout regimen in the Seattle area. Mebane also said that Bryant plans to adopt the same food program Mebane has used to get his weight down.
New defensive line coach Todd Wash said he expects to use Bryant in a way similar to how he was used last year.
“Red is a freak athlete, with how big he is and how well he runs and that kind of stuff,” Wash said. “We’re going to get him into some one-on-one situations where hopefully he can do some two-gapping kind of stuff, and let him do what he does.”
And what is that?
“It’s very similar,” Wash went on. “We build into some of the things that we’ve done in the past. We’ve added some things. But he’s going to be doing what he did last year.”
Bryant said he’ll have a chance to get up the field more this season.
“He’s a good man,” the always respectful Bryant said about Wash. “He’s doing a great job of taking care of me. I like the way his philosophy is. He wants us to get up the field and attack.”
But for now, Bryant will have to be patient.
“I feel like Coach Carroll gave me a great opportunity, and he’s still showing a lot of faith in me,” Bryant said. “They’re all rooting for me, and so whenever you’ve got that kind of support, you know you just want to succeed.”