JJT | Bryant passes the first test
Jean-Jacques Taylor: Bryant passes the first test
Receiver is back on Parcells' good side ... but can he stay there?
10:16 PM CDT on Saturday, July 31, 2004
OXNARD, Calif. – The questions about Antonio Bryant's ability to succeed have never centered on his talent.
Not at Pittsburgh, where he was one of the top receivers in the nation. And not with the Cowboys, with whom he was one of the NFL's top rookies two years ago.
Any doubts about whether he would have a productive NFL career have always dealt with his attitude. Could he stop the sideline tantrums? Could he yield to authority? Could he maintain focus?
Coach Bill Parcells obviously thinks he can. That's probably the only reason Bryant remains on the team after he was involved in a practice-field altercation with Parcells in early June that resulted in Bryant throwing a sweaty jersey in the coach's face and being escorted off the field by club security.
It's helped that Bryant has been contrite. While he doesn't regret the incident, Bryant said he apologized to Parcells for his behavior.
"Life is about making mistakes, so I don't regret it because I learned from it," Bryant said after practice Saturday in his first public comments about the incident. "I never lost respect for Coach Parcells, and I didn't want him to think I disrespected him."
Bryant met with Parcells for about 45 minutes Monday to discuss the incident. He said he spent most of the meeting listening.
"It was mostly him talking, but he asked me a couple questions," Bryant said. "We came to an understanding. Now, I have a better understanding of what's expected of me. He told me if I can't control something, why worry about it?"
Bryant said the incident was the culmination of frustration, not the result of a bad day at the office.
"It wasn't just a single day," he said. "That would have been crazy, man. I'm a little crazy, but I'm not that crazy. I didn't do anything treacherous. It's not like I walked in with a bunch of uzis and shot up the place, but I knew I was wrong and I had to be a man and step up."
Now, Bryant needs to step up on the field. He caught 44 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. His numbers dipped to 39 receptions for 550 yards and two touchdowns last season.
He also dropped passes and occasionally improvised routes. One such route, when he curled behind the safety instead of in front of him, led to an interception at the goal line in the regular-season finale, a 13-7 loss to New Orleans.
Still, Parcells remains intrigued by Bryant's athleticism. And his passion. And his work ethic.
"He can run, he's quick and he's elusive," Parcells said. "I think, hopefully, he can add the things to it that comprise the total talent package. That's what we're going to work on. He's got to be consistent, dependable and reliable, and he can't improvise at the wrong time. You've got to be solid, you've got to make the sound plays first, then take your chances after that."