Bryant puts being the 'franchise player' behind him
Receiver Antonio Bryant knows how it sounds. After setting career marks for receptions (83), yards (1,248) and touchdowns (7) last season, the Bucs designated him their franchise player. Bryant was unable to test the free agent market but he received essentially a $9-million raise.
It wasn't enough.
Bryant would've preferred to sign a long-term deal either with the Bucs or another team, guaranteeing him maybe twice as many dollars.
With so many people losing their jobs in this economic climate, Bryant isn't complaining about his $9.884-million salary. It's just not the outcome he was hoping for.
"I'm not unhappy about being a franchise player,'' Bryant said. "That's not it. Just in the overall picture. But I'm past that. But if you ask me, I'll tell you the truth. I'm not a sugarcoated person. I'm not going to lie to you.
"At the end of the day, of course I'm happy I'm here and this is what I like to do. I could've been back on the couch again. I'm not complaining about that. But for my situation and my lane in life and what's going on in my lane, there were better options and better situations I wish I could've had myself in. But that's over. We're on our new foot, that's why I'm here. So you all can't go and report Antonio Bryant didn't show up today. I'm here.''
A year ago, Bryant was just happy to find a home with the Buccaneers, having sat out the 2007 season. It seemed nobody was interested in the talented but tempermental receiver who had well-documented conflicts with Bill Parcells in Dallas and Mike Nolan in San Francisco.
"Remember, I was out of work myself in '07,'' Bryant said. "I can understand what it's like to be out of work. Don't take it personal. You should never take it personal. Never count the next man's pockets. I don't do that. I don't say, "This guy got this kind of money, I want that money.' I've never done that. I prove myself everyday. I'm a competitor. But I don't count the next man's pockets. I don't know what the next man is paying, I don't know what he's got to do to work or what he's going through.
"I look at it like this: if you get a $9-million raise -- did you count the taxes? Did you count the fact that Antonio Bryant just doesn't take care of Antonio Bryant. Antonio Bryant has got kids, a mom, brothers, sisters. I've got people in my family lost their jobs, too. If you're a guy in this situation and somebody says, "We're going to give you $10-million,' of course you're a guy who's going to go and think of more than just yourself. You're going to go beyond that because you've got family, you've got other people that you're the backbone for. That's how I look at it, too. I'm the burden bearer in my family. When things happen, when a crisis happens, they come to me. I'm sure a lot of guys in this locker room understand the situation.''
What Bryant has wondered about is what happens if he repeats his success in 2009 and is an unrestricted free agent again?
"There were times I thought about the whole scenario,'' Bryant said. "You get franchised, now you go back out here and you guys have the success that you had last year and prove myself or better, now what's the deal? Do you go back to the table and say, "I want all the money you've got? That's how I look at it. Now what's the scenario?'