BEREA — Desmond Bryant was tired of the trips to the hospital — three in 13 months. He was sick of the scared feeling he’d get when his heart would race.
So he elected to have a cardiac ablation Dec. 6 at the Cleveland Clinic to correct the irregular heartbeat.
“I felt like after I experienced what I did on the field that it was finally time to do something to fix that,” Bryant, a defensive lineman, said Wednesday. “So while it was a trying time, I was also excited to get this procedure done and put this behind me.”
Bryant, 28, was taken to a Florida hospital in November 2012 during Oakland’s game in Tampa Bay. He signed a five-year, $34 million contract with the Browns in 2013, then was taken to the hospital Oct. 3 with an irregular heartbeat during a game versus the Bills. The final episode was discovered the day after the Jaguars game Dec. 1.
Bryant hadn’t missed a game and said he could’ve kept playing but chose the ablation, which is a procedure that destroys a small area of tissue that causes rapid and irregular heartbeats, according to the American Heart Association.
“I would have been putting myself at risk (without the surgery), which is not something you want to do. Not with your heart,” he said. “They had a procedure they could do that had a very high success rate that was going to help me and I was willing to do that. Unfortunately, I lost the rest of the season but you know going forward should be great.”
Three months later, he got the go-ahead from doctors to resume training.
“It was a great feeling,” Bryant said. “When I did get that, it was a great day for me and I immediately went out to L.A. and started training full-go and I haven’t looked back since.
“I’ve been training and feeling real well. I’m back. I’m healthy. I can’t wait to keep going with this thing.”
Bryant talked after minicamp practice in which he lined up next to his teammates and went through defensive drills. After missing Tuesday for personal reasons, it was his first official practice since last season.
“I was able to do everything on the field today. I feel great,” he said. “There’s still some work to do on my conditioning, but I think everybody out there could probably say that. I feel good about where I am and I feel good about where I project myself to be.”
The Browns are counting on Bryant (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) to man the frontline of the defense and live up to his contract.
He got off to a great start last year, totaling two sacks and 10 tackles in his Browns debut. He added 1.5 sacks and 15 tackles over the next three games.
The production dropped after the scare versus Buffalo. He didn’t record another sack, and his highest tackle total was four in a loss to Pittsburgh. In 12 starts, he made 45 tackles with 3.5 sacks.
Bryant was asked if the incident in the Buffalo game affected his play.
“I can’t say that it did. I don’t know that it did,” he said. “I guess you could look at the tape. I don’t know.”
New coach Mike Pettine is installing a multifront system designed to confuse and pressure the quarterback. Bryant, who went to Harvard, called it the most complex scheme he’s played in.
“I feel like I knew all the ins and outs of D-line play, but they’ve got a few wrinkles here and there that kind of switch things up that really make it challenging for offenses,” he said. “I can’t wait to continue to grow and learn in this system and see where this will take us.
“I’m a good fit for any defense. I’m a D-lineman.”
Bryant acknowledged the seriousness of any matter relating to the heart, but didn’t want to dwell on his predicament.
“The scariest part was right when it would happen,” he said. “I would feel like I had a fast heart rate and the next thing I know I was going to the hospital. That was the only real scary thing. Other than that, I was focusing on the positives, focusing in on what I can do to get better, to get back, to be where I am today and then where I want to be during the course of the next year.”
Outside linebacker Quentin Groves had the same procedure before his rookie season and discussed it with Bryant.
“Des is a big baby. I have to rock him to sleep at night. No, I’m just kidding,” he said. “I just told him, ‘It’s a fairly simple procedure. I recommend you get it done. I’m proud that you got it done before it became a problem for you.’”
After the episode against Buffalo, Bryant said he would make lifestyle changes.
“A heart surgery will make you kind of realize you need to start doing things right, especially diet-wise,” he said. “I’ve really cleaned things up a little bit. So far, so good. It’s not that bad.”
His teammates are glad he’s back.
“He’s a monster, man,” inside linebacker Craig Robertson said. “When you get a monster back, it’s always better for a linebacker.”
“He’s a talented guy,” new inside linebacker Karlos Dansby said. “I know he had a big injury with his heart. That’s serious, you can’t overlook that. For him to be able to have enough faith to come back out here on the field and continue to play this game, my hat goes off to him.
“He’s a tough guy and I can’t wait to get out here and play with him.”