Mann on Bryant: "Good as anybody I've coached
Richard Mann has coached a lot of prolific NFL receivers during his 30 years at the pro and collegiate level, a star-studded list that includes Keyshawn Johnson, Mark Clayton and Andre Rison, to name a few.
According to Mann, Antonio Bryant is as talented as any player who has ever caught a pass for him.
Relying heavily on Mann's recommendation, that Bucs placed the franchise player tag on Bryant Wednesday, agreeing to pay him $9.88-million for 2009 -- the average salary of the top five highest-paid receivers in pro football.
That decision was reached after Bryant set career highs for catches (83), receiving yards (1,248) and touchdowns (7) in just one season with the Bucs.
"He's as good as anybody I've coached,'' Mann said Thursday, upon arriving in Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine. "I've had a lot of them, I think, and I'm starting to put him right up at the top of the list with the ones I really thought were great. I haven't been around him as long as some other guys, but this will solidify it for me as soon as we get going again. But going into the season, there's no doubt in my mind, he'll be there. He'll probably be better than last year.'
Mann, who is beginning his eighth season as the Bucs receivers coach, spoke to Bryant by telephone yesterday, shortly after the team placed the franchise tag on him.
Bryant, who played for the veteran minimum of $730,000 last season after sitting out all of 2007, was understandably excited about the financial commitment the Bucs made Wednesday. But Mann said Bryant was just as stoked about returning to Tampa Bay.
"I think he's looking forward to it,'' Mann said. "He had a lot to prove -- not to himself, but the other people -- that he could do it and handle all that comes along with it. And I think he did that.
"He seems to be excited. I thought they were going to put the (franchise) tag on him. When I got the word, that's when we spoke. He was in Dallas at his home and he was real excited. And that's a good thing. It's going to be interesting. It really is.''
"It's a situation now where we've got a new coordinator, it's basically a new staff. I think the offense, there's some carry over there, but I still don't know yet. We're still messing around with it a little bit. But if I understand it, I can coach it up. He'll fit in nicely to what I've seen so far. I think he's excited. He was excited when I talked to him. We've got to wait and see what the other part of it is. If I had all the guys I had coming back in my (receivers) room, I'd be excited but I really don't know.''
Mann said he'd like the Bucs to re-sign receiver Michael Clayton, who is likely to become an unrestricted free agent when the signing period begins Feb. 27.
"There's a couple good players that are out there, but if I had my druthers, I loved the guys that I had. I think they're good players,'' Mann said. "I know that (Clayton) wants to come back. I think that means a lot. I don't know what the money is going to be, but I'm starting to think if it's close -- whatever that means -- I think he would probably come back with us. That would be a good thing because I really think he's a good player and he does a lot of things that a lot of them won't do...Joey (Galloway) is not free, but I don't know what they're going to do. We'll see.''