If you read what Martavis Bryant had to say to reporters yesterday in his first official appearance with the Pittsburgh Steelers since 2015 after coming off of a year-long suspension, you will have read a person saying a lot of things that would have been expected of him.
But if you listened to him speak, you would have heard more. And you would have seen even more if you watched him. I have watched every interview that Bryant has given over the course of his career with team reporters, and he has never looked the way that he did yesterday.
He was clear. He was contrite. He was confident. He was sober—and I don’t mean free from intoxication. I mean he was a man who had his mind cleared and was thinking and acting freely. He looked, and he sounded, like a different person. And not just because he said that he is.
“I changed my whole life around compared to how I used to be”, he told reporters. “I developed better habits. Also who I hang around. I’m a family man. I just had a son, seven weeks [old], so after I leave here I’m going home to him. It’s just really me developing my life and getting back on track”.
He knows that there is work to do, and he is not expecting to be handed anything. He certainly didn’t come into the day expecting to be given the first-team reps that he received. And he probably didn’t have many expectations about how he would be received in the locker room.
But his return to his teammates went well, he said, for one important reason. “They could tell I changed my ways”, he said. “I’m a family man now. My family’s everything. My team’s my family as well”.
There’s that word again. Family. Bryant has two. And he’s learned to lean on both of them now for support. He has three children—two little girls that he had while still in school, and the infant boy—and they have become his world, along with his extended Steelers family.
The Steelers have always strived to be a family organization. For starters, it literally is one. The ownership has already passed on from father to son twice, and the fourth generation is already contributing on the coaching staff. I’m not sure I want to know what happens when we reach the seventh son of a seventh son, however.
One of the many reasons that the suspension was so hard for him was because it took him away from a part of his family. “It was a rough time in my life”, he told reporters. “As far as me watching the games on Sunday and stuff, I just stayed away from TV, I didn’t really watch it. Knowing I let myself down and my teammates down, I couldn’t bear to watch it. I just stayed away from it”.
He reiterated that he “was aware of everything that was going on, but I didn’t want to put my attention on it when I had some issues myself”. And he knows that he still has work to do, even though he said that “maintaining” his sobriety after a year of being clean “is nothing now”.
“I’ve got to maintain my sobriety, and at the end of the day do counseling once a week, which I’m still doing—I go every Wednesday at 4:30—and continue to pay attention, stay on the track that I’m on now”, he told reporters about fulfilling the obligations of his conditional reinstatement. “As long as I handle my business everything’s good”.