ON HIS WAY BACK TO THE TOP
When Antonio Bryant was having a thousand yard receiving season (1,009 yards) with the Cleveland Browns in 2005, many around the league talked about him in the same breath as some of the great modern day receivers, the likes of Moss, Owens, Johnson and Edwards.
To put into perspective how good Bryant was in 2005 Moss put up 1,005 yards, Owens 763 yards, Chad (still Johnson at this stage) 1,432 and Braylon Edwards just 512 yards. Elite company indeed.
Then Bryant's life took a, self induced, turn for the worse. After numerous run-ins with 49ers coach Mike Nolan, Antonio got arrested for driving at over 100mph, while under the influence and to top it off the resisted arrest. Just when things wouldn't appear to be able to get any worse Bryant failed a drugs test and was suspended by the league.
This, followed by a delay in his reinstatement to the league, put an end to his 2007 season, and some thought his very promising NFL career.
Then in March 2008 the Jon Gruden rehabilitation clinic called Antonio Bryant and offered him a lifeline. Having already taken in Jeremy Stevens as a project Gruden clearly felt that he could do the same with the receiver out of Pittsburgh.
This was a footballing lifeline but who knows where his life would have gone if not back into football? So with drink, drugs and police cautions firmly in his past Bryant set about trying to earn of a roster spot with the Buccaneers.
Having failed to impress in the 2008 pre-season where he caught just 5 passes and only featured in 2 of the 4 games, somewhat luckily Bryant found himself on the Bucs roster ahead of others who were released at final cut. Gruden had seen something he liked in Bryant and he would be proved a good judge of talent...again.
Since Joey 'White Tiger' Galloway has been less than a regular performer the Bucs offence needed someone to step up. Bryant, playing in Galloway's position, did just that and so far this season has recorded impressive numbers.
The fact that Gruden had said that he would move Galloway not Bryant upon Galloway's return from injury speaks volumes about the job Bryant has done. Through nine games Bryant has 45 catches for 566 yards, an average of 62.8 yards per game. Taking that average forward through the full 16 game season Bryant would end up with all but 1,005 yards, and with it a place amongst the best receivers in the NFL.
Antonio Bryant has become the Bucs 'go to guy' and only last weekend at the Chiefs caught the all important tying strike from Jeff Garcia. Form is temporary, but class is permenant as a wise man once said and that has never been truer than in the case of the Bucs stand out receiver.
Alex Howells, November 2008