Bengals opt to cut ties with Bryant

Posted Aug 29, 2010

Updated: 4:40 p.m.

Without ever donning the No. 19 he received after giving up No. 81 to Terrell Owens, wide receiver Antonio Bryant was released by the Bengals on Sunday in ending their most disappointing chapter ever in free agency.

Also released was hometown long snapper Mike Windt, the rookie free agent out of Elder High School and the University of Cincinnati. Safety Gibril Wilson was put on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ACL and MCL, but the Bengals still have to make a move with two more players to get to 75 players on the roster by Tuesday.

Even though the move has been speculated ever since the Bengals agreed with Terrell Owens on July 27, the decision to cut Bryant is still stunning. And the fact they did it without reaching an injury settlement or at least putting him on season-ending injured reserve is even more surprising. It also indicates they must be totally convinced that Bryant's knee injury is serious enough that it was time to cut ties even though they gave him a $7 million signing bonus in March, $850,000 later, and signed him to a four-year deal.

It is believed that Bryant was due about another $1.5 million if he was on the roster Opening Day and a lesser figure if he'd been put on injured reserve. The Bengals went with the most decisive available option to them after he went to rehab following the first practice of training camp July 29, a workout he admitted he went through gingerly on the left knee he orginally injured last year in Tampa Bay.

As early as Thursday, Bryant said he was optimistic he was "really close" to getting on the field and that he felt he didn't have to go to IR.

"Trust me,” Bryant said. “When I get on the field, the stuff you’ve been seeing on film and what some of the guys (have) been doing, I’m going to do a lot better. It’s going to look a lot different and I say that with much confidence because I know what I’m capable of doing. Check the film.”

It also indicates with one starting receiver at age 36 in Owens and another in Chad Ochocinco at 32, the Bengals wanted nothing to do with cutting a younger receiver in exchange for keeping a 29-year-old with a balky knee. The consensus is that Owens, Ochocinco, rookie Jordan Shipley and third-year man Andre Caldwell have the first four of six spots and that there are five players vying for the final two places.

Jerome Simpson, 24, the second-rounder from 2008 who has played in just eight games, was making a strong bid heading into Saturday night's game in Buffalo during a season he has flashed off and on. He didn't Saturday with just one catch for six yards.

Quan Cosby, 27, who has apparently lost the punt return job to cornerback Adam Jones, keeps doing other things that could keep him on the roster. He has played the best of the five in the games and against the Bills he caught four balls for 82 yards that included a 44-yarder from Jordan Palmer that is the longest ball to a wide receiver in the preseason. He also mixed in a 31-yard kick return.

Matt Jones, 27, hasn't done much since three catches in the opener and he had just one catch for 12 yards in Buffalo on three throws to him. Maurice Purify, 24, has only played in the opener with knee tendinitis cutting short a promising camp. Sixth-rounder Dez Briscoe, who turns 21 Tuesday, has also flashed but could be plucked if the Bengals tried to get him to the practice squad.

The Bengals lose a guy in Bryant that would have added a lot of toughness and depth to the locker room. He very impressively and graciously gave No. 81 to Owens in exchange for a donation to the financially-strapped Pop Warner program in the Overtown section of his hometown in Miami, Fla.

"We just don't lose a great talent, but we lose a great person," The Ocho tweeted an hour after the move was announced. "God will make sure he lands on his feet #prayers.

"We've got a great core of receivers and tightends but Antonios experience and big play ability made us that much more dangerous as an offense."

With Bryant insisting he's getting healthy, he could end up filing a grievance against the Bengals to recoup some of the $1.5 million if he doesn't hook on with a club by Opening Day. He got cut about 16 hours after the Bengals' first offense had its most impressive outing of the preseason with quarterback Carson Palmer's first two touchdown passes of the year.

Bryant and agent Lamont Smith couldn't be reached Sunday. On Thursday, Bryant compared the situation to 2007, when he sat out the season after personal problems and had a Comeback Player of the Year season in Tampa in 2008 with 83 catches for 1,248 yards.

“When I’m healthy, I’ll be playing football in this league,” Bryant said. “It’s like the year I sat out watching other people play and knowing in my heart I should be playing football due to circumstances I had a lot to do with. When I got my opportunity the next year, you saw the results and that’s how I roll. It could be a situation where I feel like I’ve got a gun to my head. Hey, the great players break records under pressure or they break. It’s got be one or the other.”

Sunday was not without some irony. Bryant got cut on the day Laveranues Coles told The Newark Star-Ledger via, “I think I’m done” after the Jets cut him. Between the more than $17 million the Bengals gave Bryant in ’10 and Coles in ’09, they got only one season out of them for Coles’ 43 catches and five touchdowns last season.

"We'll be OK," Palmer said in a text, but he's disappointed for Bryant and what he could have added. "I'm really sorry it didn't work out. He has been working so hard to get back on the field. I have no doubt he'll work to get healthy and will be making plays for some team soon."

Windt couldn't beat out Clark Harris, a veteran that snapped for the Bengals in the final 11 games last season and looked to have the edge in downfield coverage.


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