BEREA — Armonty Bryant was worried his Browns career would be over before it began.
He should’ve been.
Following his arrest May 3 for driving under the influence in Ada, Okla., the Browns considered cutting ties with Bryant, the defensive end they drafted in the seventh round a week earlier out of Division II East Central.
“We discussed all the options and ultimately decided that we wanted to bring him in and sit down and talk to him, and that’s the process we went through,” coach Rob Chudzinski said Friday following the opening practice of three-day rookie minicamp.
Bryant pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor DUI charge and received a one-year deferred sentence, but it wasn’t an isolated incident that could be easily dismissed. In October, Bryant was arrested after twice selling marijuana to an undercover officer on campus. He pleaded no contest to a felony charge of marijuana distribution in a school zone, got a five-year deferred sentence and was suspended from the team for three games.
“Yes, sir, I was,” Bryant said when asked if he was worried the Browns part ways. “It’s been tough lately. I’ve just been able to move forward with it, the whole situation, and thankfully the Browns still have faith in me and they just let me come out here and have a second chance.
“And hopefully I can win a spot on this 53-man roster.”
Bryant said he was told he’s on a zero-tolerance policy.
“I understand, and I’m just going to take this opportunity to let my actions on the field speak,” he said. “Whatever the Browns have me do or want me to do I’ll do that, by all means.”
Chudzinski had never met Bryant before he arrived for minicamp. The initial interaction had a sober tone as they met one-on-one.
“It’s a serious matter,” Chudzinski said. “I had a chance to sit down with him and talk and talk about my expectations and make those expectations clear with him.
“He’s very remorseful for the things that have happened. He understands me and what I expect from him and is ready to make amends.”
Bryant didn’t give any details of the DUI arrest — he called it a “stupid mistake” — but answered most questions. He was soft-spoken and acted contrite with reporters and Chudzinski.
“I apologized multiple times,” Bryant said. “He just told me what he expects and what the Browns expect. So hopefully we can move forward and I can prove (to) them that I’m not that type of person.”
The Browns, as most teams do, talk often about the importance of character. Bryant is the second player arrested after joining the Browns, following veteran linebacker Quentin Groves’ solicitation arrest last month.
Despite Bryant’s previous arrest, the Browns said they did an extensive background check and felt comfortable drafting him. Bryant told reporters after being picked No. 217 that good people make mistakes and he wouldn’t let anyone down with his second chance.
He had a similar message Friday when asked why the Browns should still believe he’ll straighten up.
“Because I believe good people make mistakes and it’s all about moving on, and hopefully my actions will speak loud,” he said.
Bryant said he’s being advised by his college coach, made a strong connection with Browns defensive line coach Joe Cullen and is making lifestyle changes.
“I’ve been locking myself in the room with my playbook every night,” he said. “Either that, or I’m on the videogames. Just keepin’ to myself. Nothing outside is going to affect me from helping this team win, or anything like that.”
Chudzinski believes Cleveland provides the right atmosphere for Bryant to mature.
“I feel like we have a good support structure here and I feel like we have good guys in the locker room, some guys that were excellent mentors that any player that follows their example — if you look at D’Qwell Jackson, if you look at Davone Bess and those guys — will learn how to be a professional,” Chudzinski said. “Ultimately, Armonty needs to show that he’s going to be accountable and I expect that out of him.
“You have to give guys every chance, every opportunity, and I feel really good about the structure that we’ll have around him to give him every chance. He’ll be evaluated consistently and constantly just like all our players are, and time will tell.”
Bryant (6-foot-4, 263 pounds) looked the part of an NFL player during his first practice.
“He’s real raw and has ability,” Chudzinski said. “There’s a lot of guys that are raw and have ability and it really just depends on his commitment level and work ethic.”
Bryant is undersized for an end in a 3-4 scheme, but that’s where the Browns plan to play him, particularly in nickel situations. He recorded a school-record 26.5 sacks as an end in college.
“Honestly, I feel like I’m an athlete, so whatever they’re having me do I’m willing to do by any means,” he said. “If they want me to go in there and play the 3-technique, I’m willing to do that. If they want me to drop, I’m willing to do that, too. Anything to help this team win and win championships.”
Bryant wants to shift the focus back to the field, and believes a strong effort there will improve his image off it.
“I’m a football player and I came here to play football, so that’s what I’m going to do,” he said. “I think I’m more hungry than before. I feel like I have a lot more to prove now.”
Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.