On April 27, the Oakland Raiders opted to use the third-round pick they acquired from the Arizona Cardinals via trade to acquire wide receiver Martavis Bryant from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The trade happened a little over a month after the team had also acquired fellow wide out Jordy Nelson, and paired with Amari Cooper, the hope was that Bryant would join a lethal attack that would stretch the field and form a triple threat of sorts for the team’s offense.
After struggling to stay on the field consistently through training camp, Bryant was cut following the fourth and final preseason game.
For someone who’s suffered his fair share of highs and lows in the NFL, this was unfamiliar territory for Bryant, and he wasn’t sure what the next step in his career would be.
“I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.
Just one week into the season, the Silver and Black decided to bring back Bryant, and signed him back to the active roster Wednesday afternoon. During his nine days away from the team, the former Clemson Tiger tried to stay positive, and continue working on his craft.
“I just stayed focused – they talked to my agent – and continue to do the proper things I needed to do to put myself in a better situation to get back to [playing] football,” Bryant told reporters Thursday.
Not only does Bryant believe he’s in a better place mentally, and physically, but so does Head Coach Jon Gruden, who shared why the team decided to bring the athletically-gifted player back in the facility.
“Well I think he’s in a good place right now,” Gruden said. “I think he’s healthy. I think he’s ready to go. I’m sold on that. We’ve been in contact with him since he’s been away. As I said when we made the trade to get him, when he’s right, he can be a difference maker. We’re hoping that he can be one sooner than later.”
“He looks good. He stayed in shape,” offensive coordinator Greg Olson added. “He stayed around town so he’s still involved in the game and working out. He retained a lot of the things that we were doing with him previously, so he looks good.”
Bryant’s been suspended two separate times for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, but the 26 year old is confident those days are behind him. In the three seasons Bryant was on the field, he totaled 126 receptions, 1,917 yards, and 17 touchdowns, also starting in 16 games.
“I made my mistakes when I was a younger age and I learned from that,” Bryant said. “I didn’t get overly down on myself, I picked myself up the first time I ever got suspended. I’ve been through it before so I know how to stay focused and just fight through it.”
No. 12 has an ability to take the top off of defenses, with his speed and length he can be a nightmare for opposing cornerbacks. There’s no denying the Raiders struggled to get their wide receivers involved Week 1, considering Cooper and Nelson had a combined four receptions for 32 yards – although, tight end Jared Cook in turn was able to feast for 180 yards because Cooper and Nelson drew so much attention.
Gruden wants to run a smash-mouth offense, and be able to beat you over the top by stretching the field. The Silver and Black were able to achieve one aspect of that philosophy Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams, but there’s expectations to excel at both in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos.
It remains to be seen just how much action Bryant will see against a stout Broncos defense, but if he gets the call he’ll be ready.
“I’m comfortable now, but at the same time with Coach Gruden’s offense you have to keep studying every day, and continue being a student of the book,” Bryant explained. “I’m way farther along compared to how I was when I first got here, and I’m just continuing to get better.”