By Teresa Varley
It's been quite the week for cornerback Fernando Bryant. On Sunday he was watching football at home in Atlanta. On Tuesday he was in Pittsburgh getting a crash course on the Steelers defensive scheme. And on Wednesday, he was out on the practice field getting plenty of reps.
Bryant, a 10-year veteran who has played in Jacksonville and Detroit, signed with the team on Tuesday because of injuries at cornerback to Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden. And he wasted no time getting to work with the coaches right away on learning the schemes.
"It's been hectic getting in and learning the system and seeing where I can help the team out," said Bryant. "It's a different experience for me. I haven't been through it before. I am a veteran and I understand what they are trying to get me to do. Football is football. You go out there and prepare throughout the week and make the plays you are supposed to make."
Bryant's role for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field has yet to be defined, but he is preparing for whatever might be asked of him.
"The mental thing is the hardest part," said Bryant. "Any time you come in and try to learn a scheme as quickly as I am trying to learn it you are going to have some bumps here and there. The good thing about it is the corner is universal. It's different terminology but man to man is man to man and cover three is cover three.
"The biggest thing is trying to learn the nickel stuff and understand where I fit in schemes. There is more that goes into that as far as passing and running schemes."
The Steelers took at look at Bryant several weeks ago, when McFadden was first injured and Townsend was hampered with a heel injury. He wasn't signed at that point, but the team knew what he was capable of and kept in him their plans in case something did happen further at corner, which it did.
Knowing there was an interest has kept Bryant more abreast on the Steelers progress this season.
"Once I came in and worked out I watched more and checked up on things to see where they stood," said Bryant. "I knew if something happened I would be one of the guys they would call. I didn't know how bad Deshea was hurt. It wasn't too long after the game on Sunday, just a few hours after, that they called and had me come here."
Bryant said he feels great physically even though he hasn't been with a team since he was released by the New England Patriots before the start of the season. He has been spending time at home working out, being with his family and watching his college team, Alabama, have an excellent season.
"It was the first time in 15 years I wasn't around football during the football season" said Bryant."It was an adjustment period for me. After 10 years you start looking at different things and different avenues. If I got called this year I was going to be ready. If not I was starting the transition.
"It wasn't as tough as everybody said it is. But as the season went along the itch was more and more to get back in it. My heart was still in it. I had a couple of calls but it wasn't the situation I wanted to be in this late in my career. When Pittsburgh called it was more what I was looking for."