Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY - Utah's ORSHAWANTE BRYANT ( 6-0, 201, Portland State) was set to have a break-out season.
He worked out harder in the offseason than he had done in previous years. He got stronger, faster and put on 15-20 additional pounds.
"I did a lot of leg work to make sure my body was ready to go, and I put on some extra weight in case I had to play the defensive spot again," he said. "I worked hard for the season expecting to have a big season not only for the team but for myself as well."
Two days in training camp in preparation for the 2008 season, Bryant ruptured the Achilles tendon in his left foot, and was sidelined before the season ever began.
"I was coming in motion and I tried to plant and take off at the same time and maybe I put too much pressure on it. I didn't think it was as bad as it was because it felt like I tweaked something," he said. "When I turned to go back into the huddle that's when I realized I couldn't take another step."
Three days later he had surgery, and now five months after the procedure he is slowing getting better. He still hasn't been cleared to run, but the range of motion in his foot is nearly 80 percent.
"It's been going well. It's been slow, but we're making progress," he said. "I'm struggling with my strength, but hopefully that will come in the next couple of months."
In 2006, Bryant, who spent the first four years of his career with the Arizona Rattlers, recorded 90 catches for 1,039 yard and 11 touchdowns, while defensively he had 58 tackles and two interceptions for the Blaze.
In 2007, he had 24 catches for 331 yards and five touchdowns, while defensively he had 28.5 tackles and a team-high five interceptions.
Bryant spent what would have been his seventh season in the league just watching.
The Blaze started the season 0-9, and it was hard for him. He watched the games from home in Phoenix on the television or followed them on the internet.
"It was really tough because I was trying to be a part of every aspect of the team and the organization and I came home and I was disappointed that I couldn't stay up there for the season," he said.
"I felt if I would have been able to be out there I would have been some sort of asset to the team, whether it was on or off the field."
Following the rough start, the Blaze won six of their next seven games and got into the playoffs for the third time in the three-year history of the franchise.
Bryant was in the stands when the Blaze (6-11) lost in the Wild Card Round of the Arena Football League Playoffs to the Colorado Crush, 49-44, in their first-ever home playoff game, but he doesn't plan on spending time in the bleachers next season.
"First of all I want to stay healthy and as long as my rehab goes well I will get to 100 percent," he said. "(I want) to help us get a little further in the playoffs and finish the run to the ArenaBowl."