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Red Bryant always left it all on the field

Posted Mar 3, 2014

Monday metatarsal musings: Gone, but never forgotten. After his release by the Seahawks last week, that will be Red Bryant’s legacy because of how the veteran defensive end played the game and the person he became.

When Red Bryant got word that Dan Quinn wanted to see him, his reaction was, well, as Bryant put it, “I thought they were going to release me.”

That was in 2010, when Bryant was a defensive tackle who had played in 10 games during his first two seasons with the Seahawks and Quinn was the defensive line coach on Pete Carroll’s initial staff with the team.

RED BRYANT: BY THE NUMBERS

A look at some memorable numbers from Red Bryant’s six-season stay with the Seahawks:

40-Yard Dash

121 – overall selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, the 22nd pick in the fourth round

1 – games started at defensive tackle in his first two seasons

47 – games started at defensive end the past three seasons

3.5 – career sacks, including a career-high 1.5 in 2013

2 – career interceptions, both in 2011

121 – career tackles, including 32 in 2011 and 31 in 2013

5 – career blocked kicks, including a club record-tying three in 2011 when he blocked two field goals in one game

1 – career touchdown, with one of his interceptions in 2011

Bryant was not released, but told that his 6-foot-4, 323-pound body was being moved to the five-technique end spot in Carroll’s defense. And the results turned out to be over the top. The Seahawks’ run defense ranked No. 2 in the NFL entering a Week 8 matchup against the Raiders in Oakland. But Bryant was lost to a season-ending knee injury that Halloween afternoon, when the Raiders ran roughshod for 239 yards, and without him the Seahawks finished the season ranked 21st against the run.

The next season, Quinn was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida, but Bryant was back at the run-stuffing end position for the Seahawks and better than ever. The defense ranked No. 15 against the run and No. 9 overall in 2011; improved to No. 10 and No. 4 in those categories in 2012; and jumped to No. 7 and No. 1 during the run to franchise’s first Super Bowl championship in the just-completed 2013 season.

But the flipside to this progressive – and impressive – improvement was that Bryant got another summons last week, and this time he was told that the team was releasing him. Now, he is just one of the latest roster transactions in the nearly 1,000 Carroll and general manager John Schneider have made since arriving in January 2010. Wide receiver Sidney Rice also was released Friday, but his stay with the Seahawks was shorter (three seasons) and interrupted by injuries (nine starts in 2011 and six in 2013).

The release of Bryant isn’t just another roster move, because he isn’t just another player. On the 2013 Super Bowl team, only four players remained from the roster Carroll and Schneider inherited – nose tackle Brandon Mebane, a third-round draft choice in 2007; Pro Bowl center Max Unger, a second-round draft choice in 2009; punter Jon Ryan, a free-agent addition in 2008; and Bryant, a fourth-round draft choice in 2008.

And even in that select group, Bryant stood out. He was the Seahawks’ recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award in 2011 for overcoming the torn anterior cruciate ligament that ended his 2010 season. That same year, Bryant also was voted the Steve Largent Award, which goes to “the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks” – an honor that his father-in-law, franchise sack leader Jacob Green, won in 1990. Bryant was voted the defensive captain by his teammates the past two seasons.

The only other players in franchise history to achieve that Block/Largent/captain trifecta were free safety Eugene Robinson (1993/1993/1988 and 1992-95), Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy (1998/1996/1999), fullback Mack Strong (2001/2001-02 and 2004-05/2002 and 2007), quarterback Trent Dilfer (2003/2003/2002) and linebacker Chad Brown (2004/1999/1999 and 2002).

And it was Bryant who came up with one of the rallying cries that rang so true during the past two seasons of so much success: “We all we got. We all we need.”

The news that Bryant no longer was needed did not come as a shock, because there had been speculation in the media for more than a week. And even Bryant had talked during the season about his diminishing role in the defense because of the line rotation used by Quinn, in his return as defensive coordinator; and Travis Jones, the first-year D-line coach.

But it was a blunt reminder of the business side of the game he plays with such passion, and that was apparent in the locker room at MetLife Stadium after the defense had dismantled the highest-scoring offense in the 94-year history of the NFL during the Seahawks’ 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Schneider brought it up at the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago.

“(Pete) said, ‘Hey, it’s the last time we’re going to be in this locker room together – everybody,’ ” Schneider recalled. “So tough decisions ahead, absolutely.”

A few moments earlier, in that same locker room on that same never-to-forgotten evening in the New Jersey Meadowlands, an emotional Bryant was losing a battle with his emotions – and it was more than understandable, because he had waited longer than most in the locker room for what had just transpired, and overcome more to achieve it.

“We had to attack them,” he said. “Kam Chancellor is a tone-setter. K.J. Wright is a tone-setter. Mike Bennett is a tone-setter. Cliff Avril is a tone-setter. Clinton McDonald is a tone-setter. Chris Clemons is a tone-setter. And it embodies everything this team is all about. A bunch of misfits, that’s what they called us. A bunch of nobodies. Inexperienced. Ain’t never been there. Well, you see what misfits get you. You see what overachievers get you – 43-8 on the biggest stage in the world. What does that tell you about this team? Great defense, and great character on this team.”

And no one on that tone-setting defense displayed any more character than Red Bryant. So while he might be gone, he will never be forgotten – because of the player he is and the way he plays, but also because of the person he has become during his six-season stay with the Seahawks.

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