BEREA, Ohio (AP) –– Desmond Bryant knew he had to make some major changes to his lifestyle. Really, he had no choice or there could be devastating consequences.
"A heart surgery will make you kind of realize you need to start doing things right, especially diet wise," Bryant said. "I’ve really cleaned things up a little bit. So far, so good."
Bryant’s comeback from a major health scare continued Wednesday when the Browns’ defensive lineman returned practiced for the first time since having a procedure in December to fix an irregular heartbeat — a condition he has had for years — that led to him having his first season with Cleveland cut short.
On Dec. 6, Bryant underwent a cardiac ablation, an operation that involves a catheter being inserted to destroy a small area of bad heart tissue. The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder had at least two episodes last season when his heart raced out of control, including once during an Oct. 3 game against Buffalo.
Bryant was hospitalized overnight and the 29-year-old had a recurrence two months later following a home loss to Jacksonville. It was then that Bryant, who was forced to leave a 2012 game for Oakland with a fast heart rate and light-headedness, was advised to undergo the ablation.
"I felt like after I experienced what I did on the field that it was finally time to do something to fix that," Bryant said. "So while it was a trying time, I was also excited to get this procedure done and put this behind me. Since then, I’ve been training and feeling real well.
"I’m back. I’m healthy."
Bryant missed the first minicamp practice on Tuesday for personal reasons, but joined his teammates for their second workout, which was held inside again because of rain and wet grounds.
Bryant was welcomed back by everyone, including linebacker Quentin Groves, who also had a heart ablation in 2008. Groves’ condition was first diagnosed when he was in college but he didn’t decide to have the procedure until it was spotted again at the NFL combine.
"It’s kind of scary not knowing what it is," Groves said. "The way it was explained to me when I had my procedure, the doctor told me one day you could not wake up. I was like, `Well, OK, if I was your son, what would you do?’ He said, `I would have the procedure done.’
"Anytime someone plays with your heart, you’re kind of scared."
Groves spoke with Bryant before he had the operation, and joked that he had to comfort his big teammate.
"Des is a big baby. I have to rock him to sleep at night. No, I’m just kidding," Groves 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.’"
Bryant wasn’t anxious about the operation. He was most fearful during the episodes when his heart raced.
"I would feel like I had a fast heart rate and the next thing I know I was going to the hospital," he said. "That was the only real scary thing."
Bryant was one of the biggest offseason acquisitions in 2013 by the Browns, who signed him to a five-year, $34 million free agent contract.
Bryant had an immediate impact, recording two sacks and a career-high 10 tackles in the opener against Miami. He was Cleveland’s best defensive lineman through four games, but his production fell off sharply following his hospitalization. He finished with 3 sacks in 12 games.
Bryant, though, doesn’t know if there’s a direct correlation between his drop-off and heart ailment.
He’s excited about the new defensive scheme brought in by coach Mike Pettine.
"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."
Does he fit in it?
"Absolutely," he said with a smile. "I’m a good fit for any defense."