Bucs wide receiver Antonio Bryant is frustrated with the amount of opportunities he's received in the 1-10 Bucs' offense. Despite his frustration, Bryant , who is in a contract year, said he understands the circumstances and wants to return to Tampa Bay.
Bucs head coach Raheem Morris doesn't have a problem with Bryant expressing frustration.
“All receivers want the ball,” said Morris. “Kellen [Winslow] wants the ball. Cadillac [Williams] wants the ball more. All big-time players want the ball, and you have to give it to them as much as you can so they can make those big-time plays. I want those guys that want the ball. He hasn’t been disruptive about it. He wants the football. All the good ones do.”
Bryant, 28, had a career-high 83 catches for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns in his debut with the Bucs last year. That production earned Bryant the franchise tag during the offseason, which came with a $9.88 million salary in 2009.
However, Bryant, who underwent preseason knee surgery, has caught just 22 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns in six starts this season while missing three contests due to a knee injury.
"He hasn't [said anything to me]," Bucs offensive coordinator Greg Olson said of Bryant. "We install the game plan each week and talk about the focus and progressions in terms of where we are with the quarterback and who we're targeting with the routes. We have certain players that we feel are better than others on this team, so they're targeted more often. We go through the film after the games and Antonio can see there are times when protection breaks down, so a read goes hot and the ball goes somewhere else, or he is number one in the progression and the quarterback gets off of him because he doesn't feel the separation.
"Antonio is a big part of what we do and what we install when he's healthy. Kellen Winslow is another one of those guys, and so is Cadillac Williams. I understand his frustration. He hasn't shown it to me or talked. I think he also understands when he sees how we install the game plan how much of it is targeted towards him. It's unfortunate, and certainly losing I think brings about those types of frustrations. We'll continue to get him involved in the game plan."
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Bryant is hoping to get more opportunities to help his team, like he did the last time Tampa Bay visited Carolina, which is the Bucs' next opponent. In that game, Bryant caught nine passes for 200 yards and scored two touchdowns en route to the Bucs' 38-23 loss.
Bucs rookie quarterback Josh Freeman said he will get the ball to Bryant or whoever else is open whenever he can.
“Honestly I’m not worried about who gets the ball," said Freeman. "I could throw it to [running backs] Derrick Ward and Cadillac [Williams] every time. I’m just worried about completions and moving the chains, and scoring more points than the other team, but we definitely have a package that showcases [Bryant’s] skills. There were certain plays that were called and geared towards getting [Bryant] the ball and [the Falcons] run Cover 2 and take it away, so you have to progress.”
Here is a transcript from Tampa Bay's locker room at One Buc Place, where Bryant fielded questions from the media regarding his role in the team's 29th-ranked offense, his lingering knee ailment and his future with the Bucs. Bryant on his frustration with the lack of passes thrown his way this season.
"I'm no more upset than anybody. It's just a matter of trying to help the team win. When you get opportunities you have a better chance of helping the team win. Look at Atlanta [last Sunday]. On their last drive, all you saw was [Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Jenkins]. That's all you saw. I'm paid to go out and make plays in certain situations, but it hasn't been like that. We've had numerous quarterbacks, different coordinators, different suggestions on where the ball should go; it is what it is. I don't have any say in that."Bryant on if he's the primary target on a lot of the passing plays or a case where [rookie quarterback] Josh Freeman isn't getting him the ball.
"I think you should ask them that question. There are plays that are there. With me being hurt I don't have my own section on the play sheet anymore like I used to for a play to be called. I know that for a fact."Bryant on if he's okay with the direction of the team being that he's in a contract year.
"With a guy like Josh Freeman, yeah, [I want to return to Tampa Bay]. All day. I like [wide receivers coach Richard] Mann. I like a lot of the things Coach Raheem is doing, but a lot of that doesn't really involve me."Bryant on if he'd be open to re-signing with the Bucs.
"Yeah, it's not like I'm running around here asking for a whole bunch of money. I'm not even talking about money. I'm just trying to go out and produce on the field. It's hard to watch other guys ... I can name guys all over. A good friend of mine over there in Houston [Andre Johnson], I swear, already has 100 attempts at the ball. I probably don't even have 50. It's just disturbing to me that guys are getting an opportunity to get the ball. They don't have to ask for it or demand it, so I'm not going to demand it here. It just should be like that."Bryant on if the Falcons rolled coverage to him after his two catches and touchdown in the first half.
"They do that to everybody. That's the purpose of being a number one receiver. That's not an excuse. At the end of the day I had no opportunities in the first quarter, two shots in the second quarter, one shot in the third quarter and one shot in the fourth quarter. It's hard to get into a game with that. It's just a matter of wanting to win."Bryant on how he handles his frustration.
"You don't really focus on that during a game because I'm so into the game. You want opportunities in a game, but you don't sit there thinking about that at the time. You just play football. We're trying to win, and there are a lot of different things that need to happen in order for us to win besides me getting the ball. I do try to communicate and tell them what I see out there and the things I feel should be open. But when you have a young quarterback it's hard to say some of those things. The coaches do their part and I just try to go out there and make plays."Bryant on if the Bucs should trust Josh Freeman more to make plays in the passing game.
"As a receiver our job is to go out there and make catches when we can. I think that would help the coaches and the decisions made by the quarterback. As far as the coaches just letting Josh loose, that's not our decision to make. That's up to them."Bryant on how much his knee has reduced his ability to play at the level he's accustomed to.
"I've never been hurt before even though people say, ‘Oh, he's always hurt.' I've never had to deal with injury. If I feel like I can run I'm going to try to play. People say, ‘Oh, he pulled himself out of practice.' I don't pull myself out of practice. This is just what I do. I've been playing football since I was a kid. At the end of the day it's a matter of me learning, understanding what is wrong, what is going on and how to prevent it and better myself."Bryant on if he's talked to offensive coordinator Greg Olson about getting him more involved.
"That's not realistic for Antonio Bryant. The person has to come to me. I have too much baggage in order for me to say something or do something. Anything I say is more than likely seen in a negative light. That's why I keep my mouth closed. That's the position I'm in. There are a lot of other guys that can say whatever they want to say and nothing happens. I can throw the ball down on the field and I get a flag. I watch games later on in the day and guys slam footballs and there's no flag. It's just my life."Bryant on if he's frustrated with people suggesting he's trying to save himself because he's in a contract year.
"How can I save myself? What is saving myself? I'm blessed. I've played with plenty of guys that have been hurt worse than me. Every time you step on the field something is waiting on you out there. How can I save myself? I just play football. I like making plays. Who doesn't? Who likes sitting around here with 22 catches and  yards and being 1-10? Come on, man. That's not realistic."Bryant on if the situation could be any worse for him being in a contract year playing with three different quarterbacks and the Bucs being 1-10.
"You can plan a picnic but you can't predict the weather. You just have to be the same person and strive to achieve your goals no matter what. You have to understand your situation. I understand our situation here, so I don't say much. It's frustrating when you're in those close games like we were on Sunday; we were in control of the game. That hurts. That's the hump we have to get over."Bryant on if he's not getting more opportunities because of other players, like tight end Kellen Winslow, the team's leading receiver.
"You all don't want me to say what I really want to say. Film don't lie. Men lie, women lie, numbers don't. That's a Jay-Z quote and it's very true. Numbers don't lie. The numbers are what they are for a reason. You can look at a lot of other teams. Look at Drew Brees. You don't hear no complaints [in New Orleans]. They're winning and he does a great job. But I understand where Drew Brees is in his career and development as a quarterback. There are plenty of opportunities out there. Even though they have the talent they have they're still finding plays where, okay, Reggie [Bush] is back, let's get him on the field and work him in and get involved so he can help us win the game. Point, blank, period, that's just how it goes."Bryant on if his knee is the reason why the Bucs aren't using him as much as they did last year.
"That question to me is almost an insult because Antonio Bryant isn't the only person that's been hurt in the league. Reggie Bush has probably missed more games than me, so how could you say you think it's the knee? Come on, man. There are times when I'm running around wide open and Josh [Freeman] doesn't see me. That may be due to seeing that read in practice, but also you have to be coached up on where to look and throw the ball as well. Those things have to happen. You have to have that time. This is not college. When I first came into the NFL the first thing I learned is they don't really coach you here. You have some coaches that are good and they can coach you, but they don't have time to baby-sit anybody. Quarterbacks are probably the only exception. Other than that they want guys that come in and are ready to play, especially guys in my position where I was a second-round pick." Bryant on if he feels far removed from the miraculous catch he made in Carolina for a touchdown last year.
"Point, blank, period. That's what I do. The more you're involved in the game the better you'll be. It's not like that was my first, second or third opportunity. I had already had a touchdown before that. The more you get into a game the more relaxed you are. That's my niche. I make big plays in this league. It's always been like that. I've never been a guy to get 70 or 80 catches a year. I've always been a high ratio guy, go out there and make crazy catches and come up with big yards."Bryant on how he's handled his frustration different than he might have a few years ago.
"Being able to sit here and explain to [the media] that I understand my situation and my position in this locker room, in this league and in this situation. Point, blank, period. There are only certain things I'm able to say. Other things, you all can read between the lines and figure that out. That's not my position to say, or I'm not a guy that's suitable to say those things."Bryant on if he wants to return to Tampa Bay.
"I don't have a problem being back here. I just want to win. That's what I want. I'll play in pink and green. I'll play in whatever. It doesn't matter. If you're trying to win that's all it should be about. There are a lot of games and politics in everything we do in life. I'm not really about that. I'm a football player and I just like to play football."
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