Antonio Bryant Talks Free Agency, Media & MoreFebruary 4th, 2010
There’s no question that the Bucs’ decision on soon-to-be free agent Antonio Bryant will be a critical offseason move. The Bucs’ franchise player in 2009, Bryant is undeniably the most talented and accomplished wide receiver on a team lacking at the position. Bryant graciously agreed to a lengthy one-on-one interview with JoeBucsFan.com on Wednesday. While part of the chat was off the record, Bryant answered many questions for publication.
JoeBucsFan.com: Several months ago you talked about your knee injury in pretty ugly detail on the Buccaneers Radio Network. It sounded extremely painful. What do you think about fans who thought you might have been dogging it and media reports that didn’t exactly paint a picture of the Bucs’ franchise player working hard to get back on the field?
Antonio Bryant: I feel really disgusted to be honest. ‘Oh I quit, I get hurt all the time.’ I’m disgusted by that. For the most part, I never get hurt. I only missed six total games in my career, and three this year. …People get hurt every year. But when you have a long term contract and you get hurt, it’s no big deal. People think, ‘Ok, he’ll get better and come back strong and there’s always next year.’ But when I get hurt, it’s the end of the world. …To know how bad I want to be out there and win. It’s just wrong. …Early in the season, if I felt a little bit better I wanted to be on the field. I knew I wasn’t ready, but I felt like I was running, so I should be out on the field. …I would have played all the way through if it wasn’t for my coach, Richard Mann. He was the one telling everyone, ‘If we rest him, he’ll be better.’ He wanted to let me heal better by sitting out. He was right looking back. But I’m not wired that way. [Mann] was on me for coming back to fast. … In London I felt great, then I had a little setback. But I got better. From the Saints game at home [in Week 11], I was feeling good.
Joe: What do you make of media reports that claim you might not want to come back to the Bucs because Richard Mann is gone?
Bryant: That’s just crazy. That’s people saying the way they think I feel instead of just asking. Mann was one of those guys for me that helped me feel comfortable and we clicked like that. …That was very comfortable for me. That was the first time somebody opened their arms up and accepted me for me. … I was a man when I stepped in the NFL, but I needed to become a mature man. …When I got here[Mann] said, ‘You’re not like what they say. Explain to me what’s going on.’ …That was a man there for me that I could breathe to.
Joe: The Bucs are said to be considering Ike Hilliard, your teammate last year, as a serious candidate for wide receivers coach in 2010. What do you think about that?
Byrant: I had veteran people ahead of me when I was younger. Vets are never afraid to teach younger guys, like what I’ve put out there to Sammie Stroughter. …But I came here already as a veteran and then [got the franchise tag], and Ike was never afraid to teach me. Some guys are afraid to teach veterans. … He was never intimated by me or to teach me. It’s natural for him. …By him being around me, he understands what kind of guy I am. Ike was a guy I leaned on. I learned from him. He has my respect. He’s a guy I’m sure the Bucs would want to have on their staff, who knows how to get it done on the field.
Joe: You become a free agent in about a month. Have the Bucs made you an offer for 2010? What’s the status of the negotiations?
Byrant: As far as I know my agent’s tried to contact Mark Dominik, [the Bucs] told him maybe about combine time we’ll talk. I don’t know. It is what it is right now.
Joe: Do you want to play for the Bucs next year and beyond?
Bryant: Of course I want to play there. Why not? …Raheem’s doing a great job. The defense ended unstoppable most of the time. …Sometimes it’s better to have your ups and downs early. …It was frustrating. I couldn’t always go to Raheem when I wanted to. I understood we had a quarterback that couldn’t be ready to go downfield all the time and make those reads way downfield just yet. …You know, all year it seemed like we were one play away from being in the game or winning the game. And I felt like I could make those plays for us. But I wasn’t getting the opportunities. And I wanted to say I could make the play. And when it’s like that, when you drop one ball, it’s like [dropping] three.