Wide receiver Antonio Bryant is enjoying a career resurgence almost half way through his first season as a Buccaneer. This Sunday, Bryant returns to play his former team, the Dallas Cowboys. Bryant played them once since leaving the Cowboys in a preseason game when he was with the San Francisco 49ers. Bryant did not make much of playing his former team except for the attention that it could give to Tampa Bay.
"It is Dallas. It is America's team," said Bryant. "It is even more exposure. Not only for them, but the opponent's they face. We are on deck next. I think it is going to be a real good game, a real competitive game. I know those guys over there and they are hungry. When you lose two or three games, they want to win. Obviously we don't want to go in there and lose. We like the streak that we have and we want to accomplish great things as well."
Bryant is more focused with continuing to produce for the Buccaneers.
"I try to be the best I can be every time I get on the field," said Bryant. "I think we have guys aside from me of course that are going to be able to make plays. Mike stepped up. Even though I had some of the bigger plays last week, I still think Mike Clayton did a great job of catching key passes. If you are going to play receiver for the Bucs, then you are going to catch the ball in the middle of the field. I don't know if you all noticed, but if you can't catch slants and dig routes than you aren't going to play receiver over here. I think that is something we pride ourselves on. I don't do much of the hitting, but I block and get my share, but we got guys who will hit you. It is fun being a Buc receiver because it is a little different, but we are breaking out. Especially if we gain our other guys back, and hopefully Ike [Hilliard] will be able to play this week."
Since wide receiver Joey Galloway went out, Bryant has been the starter at the split end receiver position for Tampa Bay. Running the same routes as Galloway, Bryant has led the team in receiving. He has caught 31 passes for 406 yards with an average of 13.1 yards per catch. Bryant caught his first touchdown of the seasons last Sunday on a 47-yard bomb from quarterback Jeff Garcia. On Monday, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden said that Bryant would be the starting split end receiver even when Galloway returned.
"I've always been playing that position since I've been playing receiver," said Bryant. "When I was at flanker, that was different, but I was more comfortable at [split end] and Coach Mann understood that. At the end of the day it is just about playing receiver, and that is how I look at. To be able to be used and moved around a lot was what I'm looking forward to so I just study and try to adjust."
After being out of football last season, Bryant is enjoying his comeback. In 2004, Bryant had a well-publicized confrontation with then Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. After the incident Bryant was traded to the Cleveland Browns. After a 1,000 yard season in Cleveland in 2005, Bryant was sent to San Francisco. There he and former 49er head coach Mike Nolan reportedly had a confrontation as well. After being cut by San Francisco and having some legal troubles off the field, Bryant was out of the NFL last year. The 27-year old receiver was asked why he has been able to have a productive comeback where other players have not had success returning to the NFL after sitting out a season.
"Number one, I'm me," said Bryant. "I never really got a lot of exposure of how I play but there is a time for everything. Maybe it is my time now, but take a look back. They always bring up the Parcells incident. They also bring up ‘oh you did this and you got in trouble with Mike Nolan and got ran out of San Fran.' Well nobody is bringing up the year that I got drafted, if you look at it statistically and production-wise I'm the one or two guy, and I didn't go in the first round and I had a successful college career. That is a real fact. I'm grown. Coach Parcells and I are cool. That is over with. I'm telling you grow up as media analysts and grow up as writers. All that is over with. I don't want to talk about that any more. If Parcells walked in the room right now, I'm going to (shake his hand) and say ‘what's up coach' and everything is good, and we are going to go about our business. That is over with. I've grown. I'm 27. That is another reason why I've been able to comeback. I came into the league when I was young. The age thing is on my side, and not only have I wanted to prove something, but I've wanted to accomplish some things. I'm not really caught up on trying to be a Pro Bowl guy, but Super Bowl is what everybody wants and I want a part of that too."