BEREA, Ohio -- Desmond Bryant believes he can excel playing defensive end in Ray Horton's 3-4 multi-front scheme, and the Browns are confident his arrest last month shouldn't have precluded them from signing him to a five-year, $34 million deal.
Bryant was arrested in Miami on Feb. 24 on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. He allegedly entered a neighbor's house inebriated and caused a commotion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
It didn't take long for Bryant's infamous police mug shot to go viral. Late-night TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asked viewers to mimic Bryant's eyes-half-shut, tongue-out pose and submit photographs via Twitter.
Bryant, though, looked like a different man Thursday during his introductory news conference.
"I obviously made a mistake," Bryant said. "I apologize for everything that happened, but I feel like I've learned from it and moved on from that. I think I've done enough over the years I've been in the league to exhibit that's really not the kind of person I am. I think in time, I'll be able to show you guys and whoever else wants to know that's really not indicative of me. It was a mistake. It was an accident. I've moved beyond that and hopefully everybody else will be able to."
Bryant called the past few weeks a "trying time." He has seen the mug shot, but didn't want to elaborate on his feelings about it because "it's an ongoing legal matter and I'm not supposed to talk too much about it."
Browns CEO Joe Banner revealed when he was president of the Philadelphia Eagles, Bryant was a target of the organization as an undrafted free agent coming out of Harvard University. Bryant, however, signed with the Oakland Raiders instead.
Five years later, Banner still wanted Bryant, and the Browns decided his recent arrest wasn't a deal breaker. The New England Patriots were one of the teams the Browns beat out for Bryant, the Boston Globe reported.
"We (looked at) everything we could," Banner said. "We know people that know Desmond very well. Our new strength and conditioning coach (Brad Roll) was with him in Oakland last year. So we evaluated the situation, we looked at his history and felt very comfortable that he fit the profile of what we're looking for here."
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Bryant will play end in the team's 3-4 base defense, but he also has the ability to play tackle in nickel and other sub packages in which a four-man front is used. The 6-foot-6, 311-pound Bryant primarily played tackle in the Raiders' 4-3 system, but he has some experience working at end in a 3-4.
"I've played every position on the defensive line," Bryant said. "So I feel like transitioning to a 3-4 defensive end should be really smooth for me actually."
Bryant's arrival in Cleveland has led to speculation the Browns will trade either Phil Taylor or Ahtyba Rubin. Some believe one of them could be swapped for New England Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. The Browns and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, after all, have inquired about trading for Mallett, the Boston Herald reported Wednesday.
But Banner tried to shut down the idea that the Browns would trade anyone, let alone Taylor or Rubin.
"Our purpose has been to put together a really strong unit, have some depth so we can rotate and so if we have any injuries the line will still be one of the primary assets of the team," Banner said. "That's what we feel like we're achieving. We're not looking to be trading anybody."
With Bryant at one end, Taylor and Rubin could fill the other spots on the line. Chudzinski isn't yet sure which one would be the nose tackle and which one would be the end opposite Bryant.
"I think we're going to need to get on the field and see," Chudzinski said. "Certainly they potentially can do both."
Either way, the Browns believe Bryant, 27, will strengthen their run defense and provide a solid pass rush. He had 36 tackles and four sacks this past season and 35 tackles and five sacks in 2011.
"I think one of my strengths as a player is being able to rush the passer and affect the quarterback," Bryant said. "Having the ability to move around as well as use my rushing abilities, I think I can really excel in this defense."
Chudzinski also likes the attitude Bryant brings to the field. He wasn't heavily recruited coming out of East Bladen High School in Elizabethtown, N.C., and he has been forced to prove himself every step of the way as a player from the Ivy League trying to make it in the NFL.
"He's a self-made man in that way," Chudzinski said. "So those are the type of guys that we want to be here, that have that type of attitude, that chip on their shoulder to be a great player and be the best."
Staying focused and out of trouble will be an essential part of the equation for Bryant. The Browns are hoping he rewards them for their faith.
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