Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bryant tries to revive career with Bucs

Antonio Bryant sat out 
all of last season.

Antonio Bryant sat out all of last season.

TAMPA — Jon Gruden lives by a simple principle: Tape tells no lies.

So when the Bucs coach first attempted to evaluate receiver Antonio Bryant, he relied on the best tool he knew. Gruden liked what he saw so much, he had to share.

When Bryant, then a free agent, visited, Gruden made sure the player saw for himself.

"He put together a highlight film and asked me if I still had that," said Bryant, in the process of reviving his career with the Bucs. "I told him, 'Yeah, I still got that — plus a little bit more.' ''

Gruden, too, had a little extra. There was something more on that tape, perhaps intended to inspire Bryant.

"I just wanted him to see himself making great plays," Gruden said.

"And then I cut a few clips of my favorite receiver: Jerry Rice. He was a workaholic, a passionate football player. I watched Jerry Rice work against double coverage and triple coverage for years. It's about maximizing your potential."

If Bryant does that, he just might live down his reputation as a hothead, known more for run-ins with coaches than being a go-to receiver.

A prerequisite, both Gruden and Bryant agree, was Bryant deciding to be coachable. Nothing he has done since his acquisition in March suggests he won't be.

"I told him if you do that, you should be a guy that's one hell of an NFL receiver," Gruden said. "You're a young guy. You have your whole life in front of you. I said, 'Let's open the book here and write a new chapter and move on.' ''

Bryant, 27, seemingly has devoted himself to transforming not only his image but his attitude as he enters his sixth season. He admits to his sometimes hardheaded ways.

But when he was released by the 49ers before last season while suspended by the NFL and spent 2007 "on the couch," it brought him to this career crossroads.

"Everybody knows what I'm capable of doing because they've been around me and seen me play this game for a while," Bryant said. "But I'm taking a more mature approach and a more professional approach."

He continues to prove himself from a discipline standpoint, but what about football? That's coming along just fine, coaches say.

"I kind of follow college football. But I forgot he was the best receiver in the whole country,'' receivers coach Richard Mann said of the winner of the 2001 Biletnikoff Award (nation's best receiver) from Pittsburgh. "He's a very, very good player."

Good thing because the Bucs will lean heavily on him after doing little in the offseason to upgrade a mediocre receiving corps. Bryant stopped short of saying he has earned a roster spot with final cuts on Aug. 30.

"You never know," he said.

But he has made a compelling case, leading Tampa Bay in receiving in the preseason with five catches for 57 yards, including a 33-yarder. He brings a blend of size (6 feet 1, 205 pounds), speed (see his end-around against New England on Sunday) and toughness the team sorely needs.

His on-field success coupled with his attitude adjustment has Bryant starting to look more like the complete package.

"I couldn't care less what kind of problems he had somewhere else," Gruden said. "Somebody's got to call the plays. That's just football, whether it's elementary, junior high or high school. There's discipline behind it. I don't try to belittle anybody. I try to motivate them, and I'm going to try to be aggressive and urgent. This is a team game, and we need team players.

"I really think he's bought in."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at or (813) 226-3377.

>>fast facts

Antonio Bryant: By the numbers

Year Team Games Starts Rec. Yds. Avg. TDs

2002 Cowboys 16 15 44 733 16.7 6

2003 Cowboys 16 5 39 550 14.1 2

2004 Browns 15 8 58 812 14.0 4

2005 Browns 16 15 69 1,009 14.6 4

2006 49ers 14 13 40 733 18.3 3

Totals 77 56 250 3,837 15.3 19

Bryant tries to revive career with Bucs 08/21/08 [Last modified: Saturday, August 23, 2008 1:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays journal: Offense shows signs of waking up in win over Blue Jays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The drought was so severe that it's still probably too soon to say that the Rays are out of it, but they did score six runs Tuesday in a 6-5 win over the Blue Jays.

    Corey Dickerson high-fives Wilson Ramos after hitting a solo home run in the third inning, putting the Rays up 2-1.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Blue Jays game

    The Heater

    C Wilson Ramos, coming off major right knee surgery, understandably often takes it easy running the bases, though it's not always a good look. But he hustled when he needed to Tuesday and got the Rays a run by beating out a two-out infield single.

  3. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  4. Rays vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Blue Jays

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Marcus Stroman laughs after Houston Astros' Carlos Beltran reached first on an infield single during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
  5. For starters: Rays vs. Blue Jays: Looking to make it 2 in a row


    UPDATE, 5:52: Cash said the off-day should have done the Rays good after losing 12 of their last 16 games and 20 of their last 30, with just one day off in that stretch:

    Chris Archer will be on the mound for the Rays.