Desmond Bryant was watching from afar as the Browns fought their way through a painful 2016 campaign. The veteran defensive lineman was supposed to be play a big role on one of the league's youngest team before a torn pectoral muscle last June sidelined him for the season.
"I definitely felt for the guys watching how things went," he said. "I definitely have a lot of confidence in my abilities and think I could have helped, but you never know."
It's why Bryant was all smiles Tuesday afternoon, one week after making his debut at OTAs following months of recovery and rehabilitation.
"It's an amazing feeling. I was away from this game I feel like for too long, but that's part of the game," he said.
"You get injured and it's about how you respond and get back. I have been fortunate enough to get into a position where I am back out there with my dogs."
In particular, Bryant returns to a defensive line he described as having "tremendous" potential next season, referencing the addition of No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett amid several young, emerging players like Danny Shelton, Emmanuel Ogbah and Carl Nassib. The Browns also drafted two rookie interior linemen in Larry Ogunjobi and Caleb Brantley, who will both compete for playing time.
Bryant, though, gives Cleveland's line a veteran presence it didn't necessarily have last season. Head coach Hue Jackson, who coached Bryant with the Raiders in 2011, called the 31-year-old one his favorite players.
"It was disappointing we didn't have him this past year. I thought he was one of the missing links in our football team," Jackson said last week. "He is a veteran player, knows how to play, extremely tough, extremely bright and loves football. Having him back has been good."
Jackson said the Browns will ease Bryant back into the swing of things, but it's hard to imagine his potential impact on the group.
"When I think of him and the rest of our front seven and potentially what it could be, that is exciting," Jackson said. "That;s exciting because if he can go back and be the player that he was, it's going to give us a huge boost."
Bryant cautioned, however, that "there's definitely going to be a learning curve" for all involved.
"We haven't worked together very long, and I haven't worked with them really at all yet," he said.
"We are going to have to figure things out and figure out how to kind of work together to get the mission accomplished, but I think (defensive line coach) Clyde (Simmons) is doing a great job of that and (defensive coordinator) Gregg (Williams) and really the entire defense, we are really starting to flow together on the same page."
Bryant, who began to assume a leadership role before his injury, said he's eager to pick up where he left off — especially with the youth on the Browns' defensive line.
"It's huge to me. When I came into the league, everybody on the D-line was five-years plus," he said.
"I realize the value in that, and I'm here to help make my team better. If I can take some of those guys under my wing and kind of coach them up, teach them a few things that I see differently than what they might be seeing right now, if I am able to do that, we will be a better team and that's great for us."