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Bryant opens his Bengals practice

Antonio Bryant at his introductory press conference on Thursday.

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant arrived at Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday for the first time as a Bengal, but at least one of the coaches had already met him.

"He watched us practice every day; every damn day," said defensive line coach Jay Hayes. "He was like a little gym rat. He loves football."

That was a decade ago, back when Hayes was the Steelers special teams coach and Bryant was the star of the University of Pittsburgh team that shared Three Rivers Stadium with its NFL landlord.

"That was a great opportunity for me to see professionals right there and it was free," Bryant recalled.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is banking on that gritty mentality to mix with a roster that is already grounded with solid locker room chemistry but could use an edge from a big-play skilled player that Bryant is supposed to be.

"I have guys tell me that he would challenge (the Steelers) players," said Lewis, laughing with admiration.

But Bryant is interested in starting a new chapter in his story. When looking at his choices for a uniform number, he chose No. 81 instead of 84 even though he had 81 during frustrating stops in Cleveland and San Francisco.

"Houshmandzadeh really put a good stamp on 84," said Bryant of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the club's third-leading receiver of all time. "I want to bring my own flavor. You guys haven't had an 81 here the last couple of years that was very active on the field. That's why I like it."

Bryant also made it clear this new chapter is coming straight from an old school textbook with no Twitter or Facebook. "I just have a phone and e-mail," he said.

That's where the differences begin with Bryant and the six-time Bengals Pro Bowl receiver on the other side, Chad Ochocinco, the Titan of Twitter. Lewis likes the contrast, one he feels that brings out the best in both.

"We have one guy that's cornered the market on that and it takes the pressure off the other players," Lewis said. "Chad's extremely good at all the ways to communicate and marketing and these other guys can just go about their day. They have other things that interest them. Chad is extremely good at this stuff. That's what makes the world go round. Different guys with different flavors."

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