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Red Bryant the real deal – and a real leader


JACKSONVILLE – He is big and imposing, and a whole lot of both.

But the way Red Bryant figures it, being those things matter little when it comes to being a leader on a professional football team.

So, when the veteran defensive end arrived with the Jaguars after signing as a free agent from the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks this past offseason, he didn't do a lot of big talking, or a lot of will-imposing.

And he sure didn't flash his ring around. At least not much.

"I didn't want to come in and make guys feel like I think I have all the answers," Bryant said this week as the Jaguars prepared for their third game of the 2014 NFL preseason against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan, Friday at 7:30 p.m.

Here's thing about leaders, real leaders:

The Jaguars practice in preparation for Friday night's preseason game at the Detroit Lions.

They don't have to try hard, talk big or do much will-imposing. That helps explain why although Bryant has been around the Jaguars a little more than five months, he has emerged as one of the strongest leaders of a defensive line that has emerged as perhaps the team's strongest unit.

"Some guys are just naturally gifted leaders," Jaguars defensive tackle Ziggy Hood said of Bryant. "He's not necessarily a rah-rah guy, but he's a guy who when he speaks, you tend to listen."

Now, make no mistake: That leadership? That veteran presence?

That's part of what the Jaguars were buying when they signed Bryant in the offseason shortly after the Seahawks released him for salary cap reasons. Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley coached Bryant four seasons in Seattle, and worked with him in his formative years as a player. There was trust there, and an intimate knowledge for each of what the other was about.

Spend a few minutes with Bryant and it's easy to see why Bradley was confident bringing him to Jacksonville, and why he's an ideal leader for a young Jaguars defense.

What Bradley knew about Bryant was that in addition to being a prototypical five-technique end he also was a player to whom teammates listened. And followed.

Bryant was a captain the past two seasons on a defense that not only was one of the league's best, but that featured strong, competitive personalities. If Bryant could be a leader there, he certainly could lead in Jacksonville.

Bryant agreed, but with a catch:

If he was going to lead in Jacksonville, he would need to do it his way. In his time.

"I explained to Gus that he was with me in Seattle, so he saw me grow up from a rookie to a vet," he said. "I don't want to project my thoughts on other people, so I wanted to come in and if guys wanted to ask me questions, fine."

And did his new teammates ask questions? Yes. And when they asked how things were in Seattle, and how that team grew into success, Bryant answered.

"I just wanted to be the guy that encouraged, and be the guy who could tell them the things I learned in the six years I was there," Bryant said.

Bryant also wanted to be the guy who showed rather than talked, which was one reason he approached an early-season training camp practice as he did. The practice began with running back Jordan Todman breaking a run down the right sideline. It wasn't a great play for the defense, but it wasn't disastrous. As middle linebacker Paul Posluszny said, normally practice would move on from the play, and the play would get addressed later in meetings.

Bryant, however, felt the play was his fault. He stopped practice, told teammates as much and also told them it wasn't acceptable and that the defense needed better, starting with him.

Bryant said later he acted as he did for a reason, to show his teammates the standard needed to play elite defense, and to show that every player had to be accountable.

"He didn't do something the way he wanted it done and he wanted to redo it," Posluszny said. "He had the courage to stop a drill in practice and say, 'Let's repeat this and start over.' Not a lot of guys can do that."

MT @ESPNMondayNight: . @Jaguars @chrisclemons91 & Red Bryant get photobombed during interview w/ @SaltersL. — Jacksonville Jaguars (@Jaguars) August 15, 2014

Posluszny said while word of Bryant had preceded his arrival, the reality exceeded his reputation.

"We all knew coming in he was a captain in Seattle, and he obviously brings in a very dominant presence on the field," Posluszny said. "The way he handles himself, guys look up to him because he knows how to do things the right way. He's had success on the field … Super Bowl champ … that stuff means a lot to us.

"From Day One, he came in and wanted to earn everybody's trust and earn everybody's respect and he absolutely has."

Bryant said while having that trust is great, the true test for not only him, but the entire team will come in the coming months. That's when optimistic talk at some point will turn into realistic in-season scenarios, and those aren't always ideal.

"Things are good right now," Bryant said. "The team is starting to turn around and we're starting to jell. But I know being in the league for six years, you're going to face adversity. That will be the first challenge for me, for the guys to see what I'm made of when we go through adverse situations."

So far, teammates see that the big, imposing guy is just as impressive on the inside. That impressive something apparently is something genuine and something real.

It's also something the Jaguars will rely upon to help lead them into the future.

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