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Veteran Red Bryant excited for opportunity with Cardinals

Jacksonville Jaguars' Red Bryant (79) stretches before the start of an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Red Bryant was planning on spending Thanksgiving with his family in Texas.

A veteran of seven NFL seasons, he last played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and before that spent six seasons with the Seattle Seahawks.

“I got a call yesterday,” Bryant said Thursday. “They flew me out yesterday evening, I worked out today and they signed me.

“So I’m excited for the opportunity and looking forward to doing everything I can to help this team continue to have success like they’ve been having all year.”

The Cardinals brought the 31-year-old defensive tackle into the fold Thursday after placing linebacker LaMarr Woodley on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.

In 16 games with the Jaguars last season — all starts — he tallied 22 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two tackles for loss. In his career, the former fourth-round pick in 2008 out of Texas A&M has amassed 142 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two interceptions, seven passes defensed and 14 tackles for loss.

The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Bryant has always been a solid player and appears to be a nice addition at this point in the season, which sort of makes you wonder why he was even still available.

“The first team that I was supposed to sign with (after being released by the Jaguars in March) was the Patriots; great organization, I was just in a bad head space at the time,” he said. “I really thought I wanted to retire. Really had a heart-to-heart with my wife, she convinced me to give it one more shot and the Buffalo Bills gave me an opportunity, but at that particular time I wasn’t in the best shape and I couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.”

On Sept. 5, the Bills released him.

After that, Bryant said the plan was to not play this season and instead focus on getting ready to return to the NFL next year.

“So for the Cardinals to give me this opportunity this late in the season, I hope I can take advantage of it this time around.”

The Cardinals hope so, too.

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher said the team’s history is such where a player signed during the week is very much an option to play the ensuing Sunday, so it would not be a surprise to see Bryant active and on the field when the Cardinals take on the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday. The rotation, he said, will be worked out by the end of the week.

“But to have a guy of his caliber, we all know what his history is,” Bettcher said. “He’s a hard guy to move. He has played winning football, understands what it takes to win and can help reinforce that culture here that we’re building. He’s been there and done that in this division, so obviously another important piece. I think we really feel like he’s a great addition.”

Though he’s started 71 of 80 games as a professional — and 63 of a possible 64 over the last four seasons — Bryant said the coaches told him nothing about a role other than that they brought him because they think he can help.

“If I do my part, I’ll create a role for myself,” he said.

That process will begin in practice this week and may carry over into Sunday’s game, and if he’s put out on the field, Bryant said he will do what he’s always done: play his heart out. He admitted he’s not in the best football shape right now, adding the only way to get there is playing. 

“But I was in good enough shape that they feel confident to give me the opportunity,” he said. “So it’s on me what I do with it from here on out.”

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