You’ll have to excuse Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant if he is a little excited for tomorrow, a day that no doubt has long been circled on his calendar. It is the first time that he is going to be able to participate in a meaningful football game since January of 2016.
The third-year wide receiver spent a year serving an indefinite suspension between now and then, of c course, and the journey back has not been an easy one, either on a personal level or professionally. While he has had to make life changes, he has also had to meet certain milestones and await approval to return to every stage of football activity to date. Even now he is still not “fully” reinstated from suspension.
But the longer the road, the more meaningful is the end, and that is now in his sights. “I’ve been thinking about it a whole year”, he told Dale Lolley. “It didn’t just start. I’m almost there. I’ve still got work to do. I’m going to work and have fun doing it. When Sunday comes, I’ll be ready”.
His return isn’t just a big deal personally, either. It goes without saying that the fan base is waiting to see him back out on the field. But so are his teammates, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who loves throwing to the tall target, but who has taken umbrage with him letting his teammates down by taking himself off the field.
“We’ll probably all need calmed down a little bit”, he said of the anticipation to have the whole offense back together. “We’ll probably all be juiced up and ready to go. It’s not just football. It’s AFC North football”.
Bryant has had to battle a number of personal demons along the way, but seems to be in a good headspace now. “The only person I have something to prove to is myself”, he said; “that I am capable of still doing what I used to do and have fun doing it”.
The former Clemson star said that he is not going to go out of his way to put more pressure on himself and is rather going to “let everything else fall into place”. He has done what he can to prepare for his moment, including playing into the third quarter when all other starters were already on the sidelines in the third preseason game.
“I can’t go into the game with any rust. It’s all go. I have to work hard in practice, focus on my conditioning, and go out and play a great game on Sunday. I believe I did [knock off the rust]. I still have a lot of work to do. It’s the first game”.
While a number of players will be making their anticipated debut, including T.J. Watt, James Conner, and Joe Haden, none may be more significant than Bryant’s, either to the season or to the player. It’s football eve, and in his own words, “[I] don’t have time for nerves anymore.”