Seahawks’ Bryant has big expectations

RENTON — This has been a big offseason for Red Bryant and his wife, Janelle.

And not just because Bryant signed a sizeable contract in March in his first crack at free agency.

In addition to gaining some considerable financial security, these past few months have been a lot different for the Bryants because they’ve had their hands full with one sizable baby. Fitting for the son of one defensive end and grandson of another — Janelle is the daughter of former Seahawks great Jacob Green — Joseph Brooks Bryant, who is only four months old, is already checking in at 22 pounds and 29 inches long.

“It’s great,” Bryant said of being a first-time parent. “It’s the best experience in the world. He’s starting to be a big boy.”

Joseph is starting to be a big boy, but his pops has been one for quite some time now, and Bryant’s size — he’s listed at 6-foot-4, 323 pounds — is one of the biggest reasons the Seahawks made him one of their top priorities in free agency.

Prior to the 2010 season, Bryant was a seldom-used defensive tackle who wondered if he was long for the NFL. But a move to defensive end — hardly a position usually inhabited by 300-pounders — was an unconventional godsend for Bryant. When head coach Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn, the Seahawks defensive line coach at the time, suggested Bryant try end, he thought he was on his way to being cut. Instead he blossomed into one of Seattle’s most important players, helping the Seahawks build what became one of the league’s best run defenses in 2010 before he went down with a season-ending knee injury. Last year Bryant played a 16-game season for the first time in his career, and once again was an integral part of Seattle’s defense.

As a result of those two seasons, Bryant went from fringe player to sought-after free agent. He had interest from other teams, most notably the New England Patriots, but in the end he and the Seahawks agreed to a five-year deal that is worth up to $35 million. And now, instead of wondering if he has a future in the NFL, Bryant is talking about security in his future and a leadership role on a defense that developed into one of the league’s best last season.

“Definitely it’s always been a dream to not only make it to the NFL, but actually be a guy that could contribute,” he said after a voluntary team workout Wednesday. “So I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have doubts. … (I was) on a 4-12 and 5-11 team and still was inactive, so that definitely weighs on you. But the one thing that I tell a lot of the young guys is that the NFL is a mental game as well. A lot of times you have to just continue to work, continue to keep a belief in yourself although it might be hard at times. I just feel like I showed a lot of perseverance. I’ve got to give coach Carroll a lot of credit for giving me the opportunity to excel, so I’m just extremely grateful and now I just want to continue to be the football player that everybody has grown to love.”

As for the free agency process, Bryant said he was confident he would end up with a deal that would keep him in Seattle, but also found it reassuring to have other teams showing interest.

“I was actually surprised that when the Patriots were making a push for me,” he said. “Given their track record in terms of everything that franchise stands for and coach (Bill) Belichick, he’s arguably one of the greatest coaches. For him to pursue me it made me feel even more confident in my ability and what I bring to the table.”

And now that Bryant’s future in Seattle is secure — or at least as secure as any NFL future can be — he knows that he’ll have to prove that these past two seasons were just the beginning for him. That not only means continuing to be an elite run-stuffing end, but also shedding the label of being a one-trick pony who can’t rush the quarterback.

“You’ve always got something to prove,” he said. “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. Getting sacks — that’s my major goal. I at least want to get that major stigma off of me because I know I can get to the quarterback.”

Herald Writer John Boyle:

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