NFL Nation: Joey Gallow
|AP Photo/Jack Dempsey|
|Antonio Bryant has made the most of his opportunity in Tampa Bay.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- Exactly a year ago, Antonio Bryant's couch was among the world's most uncomfortable seats.
Week after week, that's where Bryant sat, knowing he was better than most of the wide receivers he watched on television. The torture didn't come so much from the fact Bryant wasn't allowed to play in the NFL as it did from the realization that he put himself in that situation.
A practice jersey thrown in the face of former Dallas coach Bill Parcells and his frequent upstaging of young quarterback Alex Smith in San Francisco left Bryant with a reputation as a bad guy. But his arrest for driving his Lamborghini over 100 mph, driving under the influence and resisting arrest set him apart from the legions of flamboyant wide receivers who push the lines on the football field.
Bryant had gone way over the line and that's why he wound up on the couch and out of football for the entire 2007 season. That's why Bryant showed up in Jon Gruden's office in February asking -- more accurately, begging -- for one thing.
"All I asked Gruden for was a chance to compete," Bryant said. "That's all I wanted."
That's why Bryant said he didn't even look at the one-year $605,000 contract (with the possibility for $50,000 more in incentives) before he signed it.
As it turns out, the Bucs, who often get criticized for taking shots on troubled players (see David Boston) might have gotten the single-best deal in this year's free-agency period. The guy who was suspended for part of last season and unable to get on with any team after reports of a positive drug test surfaced, has turned out to be one of 2008's best receivers.
Through nine games, Bryant has 45 catches for 566 yards and two touchdowns. He's gone from not even knowing if he'd make the roster at the start of training camp to being Tampa Bay's No. 1 receiver, arguably the Bucs' best offensive player and perhaps even a Pro Bowl candidate.
"He does everything I ask," Tampa Bay receivers coach Richard Mann said. "He really works on the details and he's punctual and dedicated. He's been a good guy here. We don't look at the past. He's been good in the receivers room.
"Guys have a tendency to go in a shell when they join a new team and have to deal with new teammates and new coaches. With the success he's had and being around us for a while now, I think he's feeling really comfortable now and feels good about where he's at right now."