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Raiders think Martavis Bryant ‘in a good place right now’, hope he can contribute vs Broncos

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NFL: Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s tough to get a bead on what is going on with Martavis Bryant and his status with the Raiders at any given point. Jon Gruden and company sent a third round pick to Pittsburgh to acquire the troubled but talented wide receiver, with Gruden citing Bryant’s practice habits which he noted while he was visited the team on assignment for ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

The luster wore off quickly for Bryant with regard to Gruden’s opinion of him. Several times at training camp the head coach made comments showing his displeasure with where Bryant was with regard to the playbook, Bryant’s last of versatility, and his missing practices with migraines.

Even still, Gruden traded for him for a reason so that should have been enough to have him on the roster come the season. Then reports surfaced that Bryant was looking at a suspension. And with that suspension looming, Bryant was cut.

At the time Gruden said it was simply Bryant’s lack of versatility along with 2017 practice squad player Keon Hatcher beating him out. That reason always seemed like a real stretch. Then after week one, with Hatcher not playing a snap on offense and an official suspension for Bryant had yet to be handed down, Bryant was welcomed back and Hatcher was cut. And we had our answer.

What changed? Well, the fact that contracts aren’t guaranteed after week one. That makes Bryant’s one-year deal actual a game-by-game situation. But Gruden says Bryant’s mentally and physically ready, when perhaps he wasn’t two weeks ago.

“One of the reasons he was outperformed is he was inconsistently available. He was sick. He had lingering problems,” Gruden said of Bryant. “I think he’s in a really good place right now. I’ve seen him in a really good place, and when he’s in a really good place, he can be a really good player in this league. He’s proven that.”

Gruden added that he thinks Bryant is “ready to go.” Gruden and his quarterback seem to have had the same conversation.

“I definitely talked to Martavis. I love him. I’m glad he’s back. I got to talk to him and I think he’s ready to go. I think he’s in a good place,” said Derek Carr. “I think that with everything he has been through, he’s just thankful to be playing football. He’s thankful to be back in the locker room. . . With us, we can be there for him. Help him with whatever he needs and then he can help us to win football games. We obviously know what kind of talent he is and so very excited to have him back and have that threat of that speed.”

They need that speed and deep threat desperately. Last week against the Rams, the wide receivers had a total of 43 yards receiving and the longest pass play to a receiver went for 17 yards (Jordy Nelson).

To be fair, they were facing one of the best secondaries in the NFL featuring Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.

This week, they face Talib’s former team in Denver but won’t get much relief from the likes of Chris Harris Jr and Bradley Roby. So, obviously any and all added weapons in the receiving corps is welcome, adding a threat they don’t have otherwise.

“Well, I mean he gives them a serious vertical threat,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said this week. “I mean this guy over the years has made big plays in the screen game and obviously on the long ball. I faced him six or seven times when I coached in Cincinnati and he always made a big play on us. He’s obviously a match-up problem so we have to have a plan when he is in the game to play him top-down.”

Having spent the offseason and training camp with the team, even if he did miss extensive time, raises the chances Bryant could play this Sunday. But it will still take some extra work to see to it he’s up to speed.

“We definitely have to spend time. There is no doubt about it,” Derek Carr said of staying after practice to get extra work with Bryant. . . “but I will say too that the days that he did practice, after practice we would go off and make sure that we’d do those deeper throws. Those quicker routes that we need him on. We definitely made sure we spent extra time because as you saw there were some things that he missed, and we said hey let’s make it up.”

Aside from the time he missed sporadically in training camp, Bryant missed the week of preparation for the season opener, so he’s got to get back on the same page with his quarterback and this offense.

And there is, of course, still the possibility that this suspension could come down any day. Much like happened with Aldon Smith when he signed with the Raiders awaiting word on a suspension. He played nine games before getting his NFL ban.

All the Raiders are hoping for at this point is that he is available for the next game. That goes especially for this week facing a bitter division rival coming off a win to open the season.

Gruden says he’s giving Bryant every opportunity to play this week. They’ll cross the suspension bridge when they come to it.