It’s easy to go back and look at Terry Pluto’s call for the Browns to cut ties with Armonty Bryant in May and call it silly. That’s totally unfair, of course. You might not have agreed with Pluto’s take on Bryant, but there’s absolutely no way you could have doubted the logic. Bryant was a real long-shot, having been picked in the seventh round out of a school that sounds more like a confused set of directions. I’ll give anyone big odds that they can’t find East Central University on a map1 and even bigger odds if they can name the team’s mascot.2 That’s not to besmirch East Central University, but drafting in the NFL is all about profiling. Even a guy who is athletic with a 6’4″ 265 pound build is suspect coming out of a school that far off the radar. Add in the off-the-field issues and it’s really impossible to scoff at Terry Pluto’s assessment that Armonty Bryant wasn’t worth the risk of inviting him to rookie camp.
The Browns wouldn’t have even had that much egg on their face wasting a seventh round selection. It’s an easy comparison to live up to when you consider this is the same franchise that once drafted Jeremiah Pharms in the fifth round in 2001, believing he was a family man before later watching him get arrested for being connected to a shooting involving a drug dealer. The Browns cut ties then under Butch Davis, and while Armonty Bryant thankfully hadn’t been linked to a shooting, he had twice been linked to marijuana sales to an undercover policeman. The suspicion of D.U.I. shortly after the draft could have been the icing as the Browns cut the cake and ties to a troubled kid who seemingly couldn’t get out of his own way. Thank goodness they didn’t.
Armonty Bryant has two sacks for the Browns so far in limited opportunities. He could have even more. I was watching the tape of the Browns’ most recent victory over the Ravens and one of Bryant’s sacks was called off due to a defensive holding call away from the play. Beyond the stats, the kid just looks explosive. Pro Football Focus backs up what we’re seeing with our eyes. For the year, Bryant has a positive overall defensive rating that is driven largely by a very nice rating of his pass-rushing specifically.
That’s just on-the-field stuff though. None of that stuff was even possible if Bryant hadn’t turned his life around off-the-field. At the rookie symposium, Bryant admitted that drugs and alcohol had been a problem in the past. “Because I thought at times I was above the game,” Bryant said, “and that’s one thing they’ve been teaching us at the symposium — don’t be above the game. It’s a blessing that I’m even here playing this game and living out a dream of mine.”
Imagine if Bryant had followed any of that up with an arrest or even just a couple of party pictures on Twitter. Saying the right things is easier than doing the right things, but Bryant is proving to be a man of his word this time, and so far. “I’ve just been sticking myself in a hotel room, me and Barkevious Mingo.” So as the Browns lose Quentin Groves for the year to an injured ankle, it’s never been a bigger opportunity for Armonty Bryant. The Browns head to Cincinnati to battle for traction in their division and they need the continued quality, energetic play that Armonty Bryant has brought to the field all year long.
The Cleveland Browns took a chance on Bryant and so far he’s delivered on what could have just been lip service. Good for him, good for the Browns and good for the fans. It’s only bad for Pluto at this point, but I stress that it’s just at this point. Pluto’s article sits out there just waiting to be vindicated by a guy with a pattern and history of problems slipping up just once.
Of course, nobody wants that to happen, but it’s up to just one guy to make sure it doesn’t.