NFL coaches approach byes differently.
Some, like Andy Reid, believe that it should be all about giving players maximum time to rest and get away from football. Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs were off for all of last week rather than the minimum four-day respite provided by the terms of the NFL’s collective-bargaining agreement. Reid, who took the same approach during 14 seasons at the helm of the Philadelphia Eagles, made a point of encouraging members of the squad to leave town even if they resided there full-time.
Other coaches, such as the Browns’ Rob Chudzinski, are equally in favor of players enjoying some rest and relaxation. But he stuck with the four-day plan after two days of practice. He also had his assistant coaches give each player in their position group a video compilation of the mistakes they made through the first seven games of the season.
In Bryant’s case, video loaded onto his iPad contained about 25 “bad” plays, which, not surprisingly, was more than he anticipated. After all, Bryant has been one of the top performers on the Browns’ defense, registering 3.5 sacks, the most among all of the team’s defensive linemen and second only to rookie outside linebacker
From the start of the season, Bryant has helped set a highly physical and aggressive tone for the front seven. His remarkable combination of great size (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and athleticism make him extremely versatile and capable of playing every position on the line.
Still, Joe Cullen, the Browns’ defensive line coach, did what the head coach instructed him to do and found all of the warts on an otherwise stellar start to Bryant’s first season in Cleveland.
For Bryant, it served as motivation to return to the practice field this week an even better player than before. And he is determined to show those results when the Browns travel to Cincinnati for Sunday’s crucial AFC North showdown.
“Taking all that in over the bye week, I can’t wait to get back out there on Sunday,” Bryant said. “I’ve got a few new things that I’m ready to put out there, so I can’t wait.”
What those “new things” are is something Bryant intends to show rather than discuss publicly.
But it’s an example of the sort of elevated level of guidance that Chudzinski has brought to the team in his first season as an NFL head coach.
“(The bye) gave us a chance, as coaches, to look at our self-scout, to really look inward at what we were doing, where we were at the beginning of the season from a personnel standpoint, from a scheme standpoint,” Chudzinski said. “And then we make adjustments going forward in finishing out the next seven games and obviously starting with the Cincinnati game.”
With the help of technology, showing players what they can correct has never been easier or more convenient. Everything can be seen with a little bit of sliding and tapping of the finger tip on a computer tablet.
And doing so during the bye provided a natural opportunity to reflect while also helping ensure that thoughts wouldn’t drift too far from the task at hand: making a playoff run.
“Sometimes, when you're in the middle of it and going game to game, you don't get a chance to look at the whole big picture,” Chudzinski said. “I think the guys got a better grasp of the things we need to do going forward.”
The Browns’ players have the added incentive of being within striking distance of the AFC North lead and very much in the hunt for a wild-card playoff spot.
Those are more than enough reasons for players to concentrate on making improvements.
“With the playoffs, this opportunity only comes around once in a while,” Bryant said. “And we’ve got to seize the moment while we’re here.”
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