For the first time since entering the NFL as a fourth-round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2019, edge rusher Austin Bryant had an offseason where he wasn’t rehabbing an injury. There were no 6 a.m. rehab sessions for him this offseason.
Bryant finally got a chance to actually work on his craft. He worked with a pass rush coach (Nate O’Neill) down in South Florida this offseason. Bryant said the whole tool box of pass-rush moves got worked on, including a spin move Bryant’s flashed a couple times in both 1-on-1 pass-rush reps against the offensive linemen and in team periods.
Bryant’s played in just 10 games his first two seasons due to hip and pectoral injuries. He says he’s in a good place now, and is stepping into a good situation in Detroit’s new defense heading into his third season. The Lions have a new defensive scheme and are looking for edge rushers to emerge outside of veterans Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers. To his credit, Bryant has shown flashes of that potential this camp.
“He’s catching my eye,” outside linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard said of Bryant. “But with him, you can flash, but this isn’t a flash business. You better have a level of consistency. Just continue to ascend, ascend, ascend as the year goes on.”
Sheppard said the biggest thing he’s preaching with Bryant is health and consistency.
Dealing with injuries is never fun and can be frustrating for a young player like Bryant. Nevertheless, Bryant said he wouldn’t change anything about his NFL journey up to this point. Along the way he’s adopted the “Mamba Mentality,” which is an unrelenting drive and commitment developed by late basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
Austin Bryant said he read Kobe’s book and has watched all his podcasts and interviews, and has adopted that mantra for himself. He even has a tattoo of Kobe on his lower left leg.
“Everyone has their own journey and you have to deal with it the best you can,” Bryant said. “Things happen and you can’t control things that are out of your hands. So, all I could do was control myself and my thoughts each and every day and try to come back better and stronger. Not to prove people wrong, but to prove myself right.”
Bryant gives the Lions terrific size (6-5, 250) and length coming off the edge, and we’ve certainly seen the expansion of his pass-rushing repertoire this camp. He’s playing a rush outside linebacker role in Aaron Glenn’s defense, and he’s been one of those players, along with Julian Okwara and Charles Harris, who have done some good things early on.
“I’m excited, man,” Bryant said of being healthy and the role he’s currently playing. “This defense attacks and it’s aggressive and we get to be who we are as players and that’s what I’m most excited about.”