RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks defensive end Red Bryant sleeps more comfortably these days.
Among the changes he made after a disappointing 2012 season was finally having a sleep apnea issue officially diagnosed and getting equipped with a machine that keeps his airwaves open.
“Now I can sleep through the night without waking up three-four times a night and I’m just able to get more and more rest,” said the sixth-year veteran. “And you are able to see it on the field. My stamina is a lot better than it has been in previous years.”
Bryant, though, won’t be completely at peace until the Seahawks begin solving what was their most significant defensive issue of last season - defending the run.
While Seattle allowed the fewest points in the NFL last season (245) and was among the leaders in most defensive categories, the Seahawks ranked just 23rd in yards per rush, at 4.48.
That number proved most glaring in some of the team’s losses. In the playoff defeat to Atlanta, the Falcons gained 167 yards rushing on 26 attempts.
Bryant, who signed a five-year, $35 million deal before the 2012 season that included $14.5 million guaranteed, shouldered most of the blame for the running defense breakdowns.
“We pride ourselves on being a physical team and stopping the run,” Bryant said. “That’s the first goal we have as a defense… . so you just take it personal from that standpoint. I didn’t think it was my fault that teams were able to run, but you’ve got to be critical and if you are perceived to be a dominating run-stopping team and myself in particular, you take it personal when teams are able to run on you.”
Bryant doesn’t want to use as an excuse that he played much of the season with plantar fasciitis in his foot.
But now that a new season is about to begin, he says the difference is hard to ignore.
“It just feels stronger at the point (of attack),” he said. “I’m not getting moved. I’m able to move laterally. Just getting back to being disruptive, just making it hard for guys to block me. I’m taking two (blockers) and still holding the point. Those are the things that allowed me to get the contract that I was able to get.”
New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who coached Seattle’s defensive line in 2009 and 2010 before spending the last two seasons at Florida, says he also notices a return to form from Bryant.
“I have a pretty good sense of what I know he can do, so it’s nice to see him playing in the style and the fashion that really suits him,” Quinn said. “He’s off to a terrific start.”
Bryant also tweaked his diet in the offseason, and while he says he weighs the same 330 pounds or so of last year, he says he feels in much better shape.
The big contract he signed before last season, and his subsequent struggles on the field, might have led some to conclude Bryant was, well, resting on his laurels. He insists he’s never taken what he has for granted, but this year “just wanted to make sure I got myself in the best shape possible to come back and do what those guys are counting on me to do.
“A lot of people go to work doing things they don’t necessarily like to do,” he said. “I’ve got a job that I love to do and I just think to show my gratitude with my play, that’s how you show people you appreciate the blessing that you have.”