TAMPA — Several hours before kickoff last week, Antonio Bryant walked onto the playing surface at Soldier Field in Chicago and stood as silent as a sentry for several minutes.
There were no teammates on the field, not even coaches. But then, isolation is nothing new to Bryant, who was exiled from football last season.
"Most of the time, before that stadium fills up, I want to already be in that stadium and see everything there is to see. So when I'm in the game, I'm in the game and I don't wander off," Bryant said. "Because I'm anxious. I'm a hyper person. My attention span is very short, so I lose focus very quickly.
"I just kind of sit there and picture things that can occur during the game and see plays being made on the field and just look in the stands and look at all the pretty pictures and posters and stuff and get that out of my system early before the stadium fills up and it becomes what it becomes."
Once the football was kicked off, all eyes were on Bryant, who led the Bucs with a career-high 10 catches for 138 yards against the Bears.
But don't think that Bryant is satisfied.
"I'm just competing and taking advantage of the opportunity I didn't have last year," Bryant said. "Some people may never know how that feels until they're sitting at home not being able to play and watching everybody else play. I had that experience, so I know what I want to get out of this game now.
"I'm a dreamer, but I do honestly believe hard work pays off. I'm going to keep my head down and keep driving because that's the ultimate goal, to end up right here in this very locker room when it's time to go across the street and play in the Super Bowl."
Of all the reclamation projects coach Jon Gruden has attempted, Bryant has the best chance for success. At 27, he still has plenty of football left in him. And his talent has never been in question.
In fact, Bryant thrives at the split end position that Joey Galloway plays, which is an unexpected byproduct of the injury to the Bucs' breakaway receiver.
"It's a great offense, but it's more about getting comfortable around the people that bring you in — to have a coach like Coach Gruden and Coach (Richard) Mann that are willing to help you and to have quarterbacks and people willing to explain and help you understand what's going on."
What Bryant likes best about his situation in Tampa Bay is that nobody else around the league was expecting him to become a force this season.
"We're not on the radar for a lot of things. And I know me, personally, I'm not on anybody's radar," Bryant said. "But that's the best part about it from my standpoint. That's how most people get things taken away from them. They're stolen, so we're here to steal."
Captain inactive: Has anyone in Tampa Bay gone from first to third faster than Jeff Garcia? After starting at quarterback in Week 1, he has been the inactive third quarterback the past two Sundays. In fact, as a team captain, his only contribution on game day has been to witness the coin toss.
The only one benefiting from Garcia's demotion is rookie Josh Johnson, who has worked with the 38-year-old veteran after practice. Garcia says he feels a little like Dennis Quaid in The Rookie as a 38-year-old player starting over from the bottom.
It's not the ankle or the calf injury, folks. It's personal between Garcia and Gruden.