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Bucs WR Antonio Bryant happy with his contract, well sort of

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Bryant was recently on Sporting News Radio and talked about being franchise tagged, Gruden being fired, and leaders being cut (Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn):

Bryant on being Franchise Tagged:

"Well if a franchise tenure defines priority then I guess so you know. I’m happy to be there because it’s a comfortable situation in returning somewhere where I was last year. I know the people, I know the coaches, I know the family and I know the organization, so it’s a comfortable situation as far as that. But as far as a franchise tenure you know, I’m not going to deny it or neglect anything but at the end of the day you have to look at the situation within itself. It’s a one year contract, it’s a prove yourself contract, again, and the circumstances for me have gotten a little tighter. Now I’ve got "quarterbacks" fighting for opportunities to showcase their talents so the ability that was there last year is gone. We lost a lot of leaders, so we’re going to have to find some leaders in the locker room. And we’ve got some guys there, you know Jeff and Jeff, some guys there that can step up, Ronde’s still there, but there’s a lot more tweaks and new things I’ve got to get comfortable with again. So it’s a settled situation, but an unsettled situation for myself." - Sporting News

For argument’s sake let’s just forget the fact that Antonio Bryant is being paid $9.884 million this season. When you think of that payment it tends to cloud the situation at hand. Now look at it from Bryant’s perspective: He’s here on a one year deal and has to play with unknowns at QB while in his pursuit of a long term contract. The deck is stacked against him. Nobody would confuse Jeff Garcia for a Pro Bowl Quarterback, eh, poor choice of words, but you know what I’m saying, Garcia wasn’t a great passer yet Bryant enjoyed one of the best years of his career. I can see where he would feel screwed, for lack of a better word, by having to man his position with QB’s nobody’s heard of. It doesn’t bode well for that long term contract he’s seeking next off-season.

With that said, there is another player on the roster who plays the same position as Bryant that was compensated this off-season with a long term contract (5 years for as much as $26 million), who didn’t warrant such a contract with his play on the field. One could reasonably assume Bryant could get at the minimum the same exact deal next off-season, especially with the NFL having an uncapped year. Okay, now lump in the reality that Bryant will be paid $9.884 million this season. Doesn’t that kind of wash away the ‘prove-yourself’ mentality of his one year contract? I mean, if he tanks, he still walks away with 1000% more money than he would have the previous year. Not to mention this is the NFL, one season of success does not warrant long term contracts, Greg Stylez White is a perfect example of that. In his first season with the team he had 8 sacks, that off-season he wanted more money, the Bucs gave him an incentive laden deal and he follows it up with a 5 sack effort. Buc ‘Up Antonio.

Bryant on Leaders being cut this off-season:

"It’s hard to replace that kind of experience. That’s experience. That’s 13, 12 years in the league of actual doing, not hear say, you know what I mean? That’s what you can’t replace, you can’t replace a guy that actually walked that walk. A lot of guys are going to talk the talk of being leaders, but that’s the guy that people, even when they were playing ball or whatever level they were playing ball because we can’t replace that type in the locker room with the experience that Derrick, and a lot of other guys had, Jeff, Warrick; you can’t replace the actual walk those guys walked with people that are just talking about it. We’re going to have some guys step up that are going to talk but you’re going to have a lot of guys sit back and say ‘Okay, well let me see if his talk matches his walk.’ And that’s why me, I don’t want to talk about nothing. I’m going to tell you what I’m about and then that’s it." - Sporting News

As a fan I wonder how overblown leadership is in the locker room. By Antonio’s account you would think it is the end-all-be-all. Like Jeff Faine was saying, you are going to have guys in the locker room regardless, who are there to play, earn a check, and go home. They have a drive to get to the NFL and once they are there, having been paid, are content with having made it. Then you have the guys that will earn a check, but the money is secondary, they know it will be there, but they are dedicated to the chase, to winning championships. I just wonder how instrumental leadership is in the locker room and whether cutting Derrick Brooks and Warrick Dunn will have a detrimental effect on this team from a character standpoint.

Bryant on Head Coach Jon Gruden being fired:

"With Coach Gruden everybody knew that was my life line, that was Antonio Bryant’s lifeline to being in the NFL again and I’m not ashamed of that and won’t hide that or anything. Especially for a guy of that magnitude that has that type of desire and passion for the game. And you know everybody has their own individual differences about Coach Gruden but I can honestly say, I put everything on it, that he took the fall for a lot of shortcomings that our team had last year." - Sporting News

You get the sense that Antonio Bryant is pretty loyal, especially to folks that have a hand in giving him opportunities to succeed. I love how he went third person on us. I get the impression that Bryant has had a real tough life; that he’s had to fight for everything he’s ever gotten and that journey has hardened him. The problem with that scenario is that he has and will make millions of dollars. Money doesn’t cure all ills, but what comes with it is security and you would think a dose of freedom. In that, you know whatever happens tomorrow career-wise will not put you out on the streets. I have a hard time feeling pity for a guy that will make as much money as Bryant will. I also get the sense had he not been franchised he never would have come back to Tampa. This could be his last season here, as it’s hard to imagine him putting up the same numbers and accepting a deal worth less than he will make this season.