Antonio Bryant vents about frustrating season, looks ahead
WR Antonio Bryant reiterated his desire to stay in Tampa Bay for the 2010 season, but he made no apologies for saying the Bucs failed to make him a central part of the offensive game plans this season.
"It’s not (about) me," Bryant said. "I know there's things I’m capable of doing on the field that can get other people open. We just have to find ways for other people to get me open. There’s a lot of double coverage. It’s to the point where teams don’t respond to other things happening on the field. They just keep rolling that safety over.
"We’ve been able to use that where I just go out and run a deep route and take that safety and then you have (Kellen) Winslow come underneath or (Maurice Stovall) come. So, it works to our benefit to some degree.
"But on a personal level, did I like that? No, because I couldn’t get the ball."
Bryant, who will be a free agent after the season, said he would be comfortable returning to the Bucs next season in large part because of QB Josh Freeman and receivers coach Richard Mann, with whom he is very close.
Bryant said the Bucs have made no overtures to about a new contract. He is completing a one-year deal after being designated the team's franchise player at a salary of $9.88 million.
"I won’t have a contract (in the offseason), but I can play football and I can play it better than a lot of people who have a contract," he said. "It’s just a matter of people understanding that, ‘If this is what you want, this is what you can have.’ I’m not worried about that. Do I want to stay here? Of course."
Bryant acknowledged his early-season knee injury, one that limited him through the first half of the season and caused him to miss three games. That, too, limited his effectiveness and will, perhaps, make his market value hard to determine. He has 37 catches for 585 yards in 12 games, this after tallying 1,248 yards in 2008 when he was the focal point of coach Jon Gruden's offense.
Not that Bryant is obsessing over it.
"I’m not worried about (teams) judging me," he said. "If it’s not one thing it’s another. It’s 'Oh, he has an attitude. Oh, he has baggage.' Okay, now you don’t see that. Now, what is it? Man, turn on the film and let it play."
As mentioned above, Bryant was far more effective last season. And that was in no small part a result of Gruden's efforts to feature him.
"Most definitely," Bryant said. "I think in the Carolina game (in December 2008), I caught every ball that was thrown to me that night. I probably missed one. The difference between this year and last year, is we (practiced) that stuff every day. Before I went out there on the field, I knew exactly what (Panthers CB) Ken Lucas was going to do. As soon as he touched me, I almost knocked him over because I knew. I told my coach on the sideline excactly what he was going to do. And as soon as he put his hand out, I did it and ran.
"The ball was under thrown, but he was beat so bad. We have situations where you have your guys you want to get the ball to and I’m not on that sheet right now. The tight end is the quarterback’s best friend. They’re committed to Kellen. But that commitment is not helping me. I know how everything operates so I’m just going to be a team guy and do my part."