Bryant upbeat amid cut speculation

Posted Aug 26, 2010

Antonio Bryant (left) at practice on July 29 on the first day of training camp.

Updated: 4:25 p.m.

The agent for wide receiver Antonio Bryant said Thursday that he is not aware of the Bengals planning to release his client.

Reacting to a tweet from Newsday that said the Bengals are preparing to cut Bryant, Lamont Smith said he has not heard from the club and he thinks he would so they could reach an injury settlement before releasing him.

“That would be the protocol,” Smith said. “Because you would think they would call and say, ‘This isn’t going the way we thought and let’s try and do something.’ From what I understand, things have progressed the past week.”

If the Bengals are planning to cut him, Bryant doesn’t know it, either, because a couple of hours before the tweet he talked to the Cincinnati media Thursday and said he’s encouraged by the progress of the knee he originally injured in Tampa last preseason and says he’s “really close.”

Smith said now that the problem has been located - it’s not so much in the knee but in the structures around it such as the quadriceps muscles - there is hope that he’ll progress even quicker.

It’s not the first time a Bryant release has been speculated, so there could be some legs to it. If it is that imminent, it could come as soon as Tuesday when the Bengals have to cut to 75. But Bryant was adamant that he’ll be back.

He 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.”

And that’s the way it looks here. The Bengals are going cut him or keep him.

The physically unable to perform list (PUP), in which he would spend the first six weeks of the regular season not practicing without taking up a roster spot, isn’t an option because he practiced the first morning of training camp (July 29) and hasn’t worked since. Injured reserve doesn’t appear to be an option, either with what is believed to be $3 million due Bryant if he’s with the club Opening Day on top of his $7 million bonus.

He certainly doesn't think he has to go on season-ending injured reserve.

“I would argue that,” he said. “Because once I’m rolling, I’m rolling. I don’t want to come back at 75, 80 percent knowing you can’t be 100 percent. I don’t want to be iffy so I can stay a little longer."

But if the Bengals don’t reach a settlement and cut him, Bryant could file a grievance for what he would get this year. He certainly isn’t talking like a guy about to get cut and head coach Marvin Lewis sounded like he was holding out hope on Wednesday when he said Bryant “had a good day” on Tuesday.

“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.”

Actually, there is not only no film on the guy, but there was some question if he actually existed until Wednesday. That’s when he was seen with the rehab guys at practice for nearly the first time. He has been doing the bulk of his rehab inside and while he said he has been doing some running, he also said he’s still not as fluid as he wants to be.

"The best thing we’ve been able to do is put our finger on everything that was wrong and there’s a lot of things that aren’t wrong with it anymore," Bryant said. "Some things I’m still working through. It’s probably going to be one of those things no one expects and I put on the pads and run around. ... I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing and I like the results so far. It’s been positive on my end."

Bryant thinks he’s in this predicament because he wanted to get on the field so badly, first last year in Tampa when he was the Bucs franchise player and then this spring in Cincinnati after he signed a four-year, $28 million deal.

After he had arthroscopic surgery in Tampa, he missed all of the preseason but came back for the opener. But he was never right. He missed the second game, two more in the middle of the season, and played enough to make only 39 catches in 13 games. Then when he came here, he said he probably should have backed off the knee in May and June.

“New team. New system. New city. So I had to be here,” Bryant said. “I just settled into working out with everybody else instead of doing extra stuff and focusing more on rehabbing the left knee.”

The best option would probably be PUP, but he said he felt good enough to go on the field that first morning at Georgetown College.

“Yeah, it was my call to go out there and practice. That’s what I want do,” Bryant said. “Even now, I’m anxious.”

With nine days and two preseason games left until the final Cutdown day of Sept. 4, he says the target date is the Sept. 12 opener. But he doesn’t feel like a clock is ticking.

“Time is only running out if you’re not making progress and I’ve been able to progress and do things I wasn’t capable of doing,” Bryant said. “It’s been encouraging and it's made me a little anxious ... we're getting there. We're getting really close."

Also out again on offense Thursday were fullback Fui Vakapuna (shoulder), wide receiver Maurice Purify (knee) and tackle Anthony Collins (foot). With the plane leaving Frriday for Buffalo after a morning walkthrough, these guys probably won't play.

Cornerback Morgan Trent (ankle) has yet to practice after the first three-interception game in NFL preseason in nine years. Also out in a suddenly depleted secondary were rookie cornerback Johnny Sears (muscle pull) and veteran safeties Roy Williams (ankle) and Chinedum Ndukwe (unknown).

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