RENTON – A big reason why the Seattle Seahawks signed defensive end Red Bryant to five-year, $35 million deal that – making him the team’s highest paid player on defense – was his willingness to take on an even larger leadership role.
For the first time in his four-year career Bryant stayed healthy and played all 16 games in 2011, finishing with 32 tackles, two interceptions and one sack.
And he also made an impact on special teams, blocking three field goals and an extra point.
But the Jasper, Texas, native knows those aren’t the kind of numbers that elite defensive ends in the NFL – guys like Chicago’s Julius Peppers and Minnesota’s Jared Allen – post every year.
And Bryant, who also garnered interest from New England during free agency, wants to show the rest of the league that he’s worth every penny.
“You’ve always got something to prove,” Bryant told reporters Wednesday after the Seahawks’ morning workout. “A lot of guys get big contracts and then they kind of go in the tank because you get comfortable. So I feel like not so much to justify it, but I have bigger expectations than just a contract.
“You hear that all the time, but I definitely want to be a guy that when my playing days are over with and they think about the Seahawks, they think about big Red Bryant.”
Generating more sacks also is at the top of Bryant’s to-do list – he has just two career sacks in four years.
“I at least want to get that major stigma off of me because I know I can get to the quarterback,” Bryant said.
Bryant, 28, said he understands the responsibility that comes with signing a lucrative, multiyear deal. It’s a role he has grown into after being a fourth-round pick in 2008 simply fighting for playing time. He ultimately seized a starting job as Seattle’s run-stuffing defensive end after a successful position switch from defensive tackle that was sought by former Seattle defensive line coach Dan Quinn two years ago.
One of the vocal leaders last season, Bryant said he’s more than willing to shoulder even more of a leadership role this year.
“I know I’m a big player moving forward in terms of what we’re trying to do on defense,” Bryant said. “And I have a lot more responsibility as far as continuing to be a leader that I have become, and continuing to progress as a player. But other than that it feels about the same.”
According to Bryant, one thing he has noticed during Seattle’s offseason training is the difference from two years ago after coach Pete Carroll created more depth at every position.
“In 2010 when I got injured we really didn’t have a person who could step up at that particular time and do what Coach Carroll envisioned for the defense,” Bryant said. “But you can’t say the same thing today. If one guy goes down, I’m pretty sure the next guy will step in and it shouldn’t be a big drop off. And that’s a testament to Coach Carroll and the scouting department.”
Bryant also said he’s enjoying fatherhood. Bryant’s wife, Janelle, the daughter of former Seahawks defensive end Jacob Green, gave birth in late December to Joseph Brooks Bryant. Joseph is about 29 inches long now and weighs 22 pounds.
“He’s starting to be a big boy,” Bryant said with a laugh.
While hanging out with his son, Bryant also participates in one of his favorite pastimes – keeping up with the latest news on TV.
Bryant said he’s hooked on CNN and other news channels, and holds his own in debating current events.
“I’m a country boy,” Bryant said. “There ain’t much to watch but the news in the country. I watch a little CNN, MSNBC and I sprinkle a little Fox in there every now and then.”
“It’s funny because he’s so young and he watches CNN,” teammate Brandon Mebane said of Bryant. “He’ll watch CNN like most other people watch reality TV shows, and like Fox News. And him being the age he is, you’d never think people our age would watch CNN and Fox News.
“He’s real current with the world and what’s going on with different issues. He’ll break it down to you. He’ll tell you what’s going on Wall Street or what’s happening with the president, what’s happening in the Middle East.”
USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was at practice Wednesday. Kiffin served as a mentor for Carroll and Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. The Seahawks will hold a rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday, and will include only Seattle’s 10 draft picks, the 10 undrafted rookie free agents the Seahawks have signed and about 30 rookie tryout firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8437 blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks Twitter: @eric_d_williams