Defensive end/linebacker Austin Bryant hasn’t been able to go through any football drills since the Detroit Lions drafted him in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but it isn’t for lack of trying.
“He already got me in trouble with the coach,” linebacker coach Al Golden said of Bryant. “Day 1, he already got me in trouble. He already tried to get in just a couple of drills.”
Bryant suffered a torn pectoral muscle in his final year at Clemson, and despite some gruesome sounding pain, he played through it all. The injury, however, did require offseason surgery in January, and the Lions are taking it slow with Bryant, even if the rookie is champing at the bit to get back out there.
At this point, Bryant’s workout is purely off-field stuff: conditioning, rehab, meetings, learning the scheme. But according to Golden, he’s approaching that aspect of the offseason with the same vigor as his eagerness to get on the field.
“(He’s) very inquisitive, conscientious,” Golden said. “Sent me text last night at 10 o’clock with a question.”
This defense can be a particularly hard one to ask a rookie to learn, especially considering Bryant’s versatility as both a linebacker and defensive lineman, which Golden admits he’ll go back and forth between. However, the team believes Bryant has a great surrounding cast to help him get up to speed, even when he’s not on the field taking reps.
“It’s a great environment to come into,” Golden said. “He’s got (Devon) Kennard mentoring him. He’s got Romeo (Okwara) next to him in (defensive line coach) Bo’s (Davis) room. Now he’s got Trey (Flowers) in Bo’s room. Christian Jones in our room. He’s in a good environment, and he’s going to be challenged to learn quick. So once he gets cleared, we’ll be pushing him.”
And while there obviously aren’t an on-field results yet, the outlook appears promising, according to Golden.
“He’s being exposed to a lot of things, and I know he’s learning well because I’m engaging him in the room, and he asks good questions and has good answers.”
As for when he’ll be healthy enough to make his on-field debut, Golden is leaving that to the trainers. However, don’t expect him to be out too long, and when he takes the field, the staff expects him to be ready and prepared with the scheme he is continuing to learn.
“He’ll be ready to go, and when he is, he’ll know it well enough to make that transition for us.”