With seven productive NFL seasons under his belt, Desmond Bryant stared down his football mortality while the rest of his teammates eyed the first season of the Hue Jackson era.
He never blinked.
Bryant's pectoral injury, suffered during an offseason workout, was so severe "they literally had to re-attach my muscle," he said last week. "The 2016 season was months away, but Bryant's focus promptly shifted to 2017. It's what kept him going every single moment of his long, grueling rehabilitation process.
"I'm a competitor, man. I love this game," Bryant said. "Long before the Browns ever paid me to play, I was out there doing it for fun, doing it for free. When that was taken away from me, there was nothing I wanted more than to get it back. It's a long process but you're sitting on the rehab table and you're thinking about that next time you get to be on the field."
Before 2016, Bryant hadn't missed more than four games in a single season. It's one of the many reasons why the past couple of weeks have felt so rewarding, as Bryant rejoined his teammates on the field for OTAs.
The veteran defensive lineman is being brought along at a methodical pace. He assured he's ready to play now if necessary, but his itinerary during open-media OTAs only included individual drills. He'll be doing at least that when the Browns come together for mandatory veteran minicamp starting Tuesday.
"It seemed like forever," Bryant said. "I'm just getting back out here. It definitely took a long time. They literally had to re-attach my muscle. Start from ground one and build it back up, building, building, building to get it to a point where now I feel like I'm ready."
Bryant's connection to Jackson, which dates back to Oakland in 2010 -- when Bryant was a backup defensive lineman and Jackson was the offensive coordinator -- strengthened that drive to return for a team he knew was headed in the right direction.
Before Bryant received a long-term deal from the Browns in 2013, he was a plucky, disruptive pass rusher on Oakland's scout team. Day after day, he caught the attention of Jackson, who would become the team's head coach a year later, and Jackson let him know it.
"There were definitely a few times he had to stop things and say 'somebody block this guy,'" Bryant said. "After practice, he'd say you're going a great job out there and I really appreciated that. I always had a special connection with Hue."
Under Jackson in 2011, Bryant made the first 10 starts of his career and blossomed as one of the game's best young defensive linemen. Now, with Jackson leading the way and an "in your face" coordinator like Gregg Williams, Bryant is ready to make an impact in anyway he can.
"I've done some good things in this league but there's still a lot left I want to prove," Bryant said. "That's another motivation for me to get back out there."