Browns defensive lineman Desmond Bryant put on a much better face than the one that went viral recently.
Bryant, who signed a five-year, $34 million free agent contract with Cleveland earlier this week, apologized Thursday for his recent arrest, which was followed by his infamous police mug shot — his eyes half closed, his tongue sticking out — that became a social media target and was lampooned by late-night TV talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.
Bryant was arrested in Miami on Feb. 24 on a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. The former Oakland Raiders lineman allegedly entered a neighbor’s house inebriated and caused a commotion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I obviously made a mistake,” Bryant said, moments after posing for photos holding his new No. 92 Browns jersey. “I apologize for everything that happened, but I feel like I’ve learned from it and I’ve 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 person that I am.
“And I think that in time, I’ll be able to show you guys and whoever else wants to know, that’s really not indicative of me.”
The Browns believe in his character and feel the 6-foot-6, 311-pounder will be a huge asset to their defense, overhauled in free agency with the signings of Bryant, pass-rusher Paul Kruger and linebacker Quentin Groves.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski likes everything about Bryant, especially that he overcame long odds to make it to the NFL. Undrafted out of Harvard, Bryant was signed by the Raiders in 2009 and has played in 63 regular-season games, missing just one in four seasons. He has 124 career tackles and 111/2 sacks.
“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Chudzinski said. “What he’s done with his career is a testament to his hard work. He’s a self-made man in that way, 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.”
Bryant’s been driven since a young age. His dream was always to make it to the pros, and visualized a day when he would sign a huge contract.
“I’ve always had a vision, even as a young boy, that I was going to play in the NFL,” he said. “So, yes. I never knew what kind of numbers that were going to be on the contract or anything. As I got older and I got to the league I saw what other people were making and that was always a goal of mine — to be paid like the elite player I think I’ve developed into.”
The arrival of Bryant and Kruger has given the Browns extra depth in its defensive front, which is vital with the team switching from a 4-3 base to an aggressive, 3-4 multi-front scheme under new coordinator Ray Horton, who used that system in Arizona.
With the change, and players perhaps not being suited to play in a 3-4 front, there has been speculation the Browns might trade tackle Phil Taylor or Ahtyba Rubin. However, CEO Joe Banner dispelled the notion the team would deal any of its down linemen.
“Our purpose has been to get a really strong unit, have some depth so we can rotate, 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.”
Bryant said he’s excited about Cleveland’s defensive front, and feels he’ll fit wherever the Browns decide to play him.
“My versatility will really help with the front seven,” he said. “I can play end, I can play nose, nickel packages or base packages. I can do either or. I think one of my strengths as a player is being able to rush the passer and affect the quarterback. Having the ability to move around as well as use my rushing abilities I think I can really excel in this defense.”
The Browns would not have made a substantial investment in Bryant if they had any concerns about his character. Banner said the club was thorough in making sure they were getting a player devoid of any baggage.
“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.”
The Browns have agreed to terms with running back Chris Ogbonnaya on a two-year contract. Ogbonnaya made one start and played in 15 games last season, usually replacing Trent Richardson on third down. He finished with 24 receptions for 187 yards and gained 30 yards on eight carries. He made a career-high six receptions for 73 receiving yards in a win at Cincinnati, and had a career-long 54-yard reception against the New York Giants. ... Banner would not reveal who represented the Browns at West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith’s pro day in Morgantown. ... Banner said the signings of Kruger and Bryant would be the biggest made by the club in free agency, but “if we’re as lucky in getting what we want, they won’t be the last moves we’ll make.” ... The Browns are believed to be in the market for a cornerback, but some good ones — Sean Smith, Keenan Lewis and Cary Williams — signed free agent deals elsewhere on Thursday.