It doesn’t appear to be entirely clear to anybody right now why Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant was not until yesterday’s announcement able to practice with the rest of his team. And I am not about to come in here and taut myself as the person who has all the answers. But that won’t stop me from speculating. And it won’t stop me from urging caution, because there are still further steps ahead before he can begin hauling in touchdowns.
What we are currently dealing with is what I’m going to call a partially-full reinstatement. To put it simply, if the regular season were to begin today, and I can’t emphasize this enough Bryant would not be allowed to play. He is currently only cleared to participate in the preseason. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s first explore why it may have taken to long to get even to this point.
The most logical answer as to why the league had not yet cleared the third-year wide receiver to commence preseason preparation and participation is because there was some discrepancy between his and the team’s understanding of his compliance requirements against the league’s understanding of said requirements.
To kick things off, let’s skip back to late April when the NFL first announced that Bryant had been conditionally reinstated on the eve of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Steelers, through General Manager Kevin Colbert, said at the time that he “has followed the protocol”, and also included a statement at the time that presumably laid out the course of action going forward as dictated by the league.
The statement reads, in part: “once arrangements have been confirmed regarding Bryant’s clinical resources in Pittsburgh, he will be permitted to participate in all preseason activities, including practices and games”.
This seems rather straightforward. Bryant was required to establish a network of “clinical resources” and then submit that plan to the league for confirmation. Once that is completed “he will be”, not may be, “permitted to participate in all preseason activities, including practices and games”.
So, there are a few situations that we might be dealing with here. Either Bryant and/or the team had somehow failed at first to properly submit his clinical procedures to the league for confirmation; the league had been seriously dragging on confirming said procedures; or there was a difference of opinion between the parties as to what constituted appropriate procedures, leaving open the possibility that the provided statement was not entirely accurate.
Through the first couple of weeks into training camp, Bryant had been unable to join his teammates on the practice field, although he remained engaged in other ways, including the weight room, the meeting room, and on the practice field—off to the side, on his own, of course.
We don’t even know what the holdup was, but it’s also important to note that this is not the end of the road. The aforementioned statement goes on to read that “the NFL will review Bryant’s progress” before the regular season begins and will be allowed to participate then “based on his compliance and engagement with his program and resources”.
Beyond that, it continues, “he will be evaluated later in the season for full reinstatement”. While this one important hurdle has now been cleared, those who anticipated smooth sailing in his journey back to the field upon his conditional reinstatement have clearly been mistaken. Bryant is on double-secret probation, and his leash is short.