ALAMEDA – Martavis Bryant is officially back. The Raiders announced his re-signing only 11 days after cutting him, and are once again dreaming about what the receiver’s unique talents can bring to the passing game.
We’ve been down this road before, back in April after the Raiders sent Pittsburgh a third-round pick to acquire Bryant in the first place.
Then came an odd preseason where he was dubbed “the white tiger” after missing several practices with migraines and criticized for struggling to learn several receiver positions in Jon Gruden’s scheme.
All this happened while his league standing was called into question as a repeat violator of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Then he got cut for supposedly losing a position battle with Keon Hatcher.
Then, on Tuesday, Bryant rejoined the Raiders. And Hatcher got cut.
Wrap your head around all that?
Bryant’s league issues remain unsettled, but right now he’s eligible to play Sunday against Denver and on into the future unless the NFL says otherwise.
Head coach Jon Gruden discussed why he wanted Bryant back in a Wednesday press conference.
“He’s in a good place right now,” Gruden said. “I think he’s healthy. I think he’s ready to go. We’re sold on that. We’ve been in contact with him since he has been away. I’ve said it before: when he’s right, he can be a difference maker and we’re hoping he can be one sooner rather than later.”
It was clear during Monday’s 33-13 loss to the L.A. Rams that the Raiders need a deep threat. Bryant ranks among the league’s best. He has ideal size and breakneck speed, which helps him make plays opponents must respect.
“He’s a guy who has proven he can go up and get the deep ball in contested situations,” Gruden said. “He can run away from you. He can make you miss. He can make big plays down the field. We’re hoping we can bottle up where he is now. He’s in a great place. He has a great state of mind. We’ll see what happens.”
Quarterback Derek Carr is excited about Bryant’s return, though there’s chemistry and timing to get worked out between the two. Bryant missed several practices and primarily played with the second unit when healthy, therefore Carr hasn’t thrown to him much. The pair plans to put in extra work this week to find a rhythm in anticipation of him playing the Broncos.
His raw talent can be easily exploited, even against a formidable Broncos secondary.
“He can split double teams,” Carr said. “Teams can try and play certain coverages with him, but he’s so fast that doesn’t matter. You make one false step, he’s gone like that. He can run by guys who are off coverage. He can do other things that most people can’t do.”
Carr also said Bryant is glad to be back in Alameda, even after being a surprise cut less than two weeks back.
“After everything he has been through, he’s just thankful to be back in the locker room, and playing football,” Carr said. “…We can be there for him with whatever he needs, and he can help us win football games. We know what kind of talent he is, and we’re very excited to have that threat, that speed back here.”