It’s been a rough start to Austin Bryant’s NFL career. For the second consecutive offseason, the Detroit Lions defender has missed extensive time due to injury, and it remains unclear whether he’ll be ready for the start of this season.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Clemson a year ago, Bryant was coming off a season where he played through a torn pectoral muscle. After being eased into his first offseason, he landed on injured reserve a week into training camp after another pectoral injury. He didn’t end up making his debut until Week 11 and finished the year playing only 133 snaps in four games, tallying eight tackles and zero sacks.
This year, it’s been more of the same. While it’s unclear what’s ailing Bryant, since team’s aren’t required to report injuries this time of the year, he’s the lone player on Detroit’s physically unable to perform list.
And while he was routinely spotted running on the sidelines under the supervision of a trainer during camp practices open to the media, no one seems to know if he’ll be medically cleared before the Lions open the season on Sept. 13.
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But even with his on-field development stunted by the increasing number of missed practice reps, Lions coach Matt Patricia remains optimistic about Bryant, long-term.
“He has a full year under his belt, from a knowledge standpoint, experience standpoint of what we’re trying to do defensively, and the roles and the positions that we feel he fits best for us in those situations,” Patricia said on Tuesday. “He’s pretty dialed in and focused on that. The rest of it is hard when you get injured.
“We’re just making sure that he’s ready to go,” Patricia continued. “We certainly don’t want to put anybody out there that we feel is maybe not quite physically ready to go. When he is, he’ll be out there, and he’ll be ready to go. I do know that. He’s a great guy, he works really hard. He pays attention to the details, smart and all of that. We’ll be excited when he can get out there.”
As a member of Clemson’s dominant defensive fronts, Bryant recorded 17.0 sacks over this final two seasons. The Lions could certainly use some extra help with their pass rush. Only the Dolphins recorded fewer sacks in 2019.
The Lions will be counting on improved production from returning edge rushers Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara, while also looking to new additions Jamie Collins and Julian Okwara to boost the team’s overall pocket pressure.