Antonio Bryant, Coming of Age

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That’s the headline of a feature from yesterday on former Cowboy Antonio Bryant in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Dallas fans saw a young Antonio Bryant come out of the draft and on his way to being a TO-like ego case. The last straw was throwing a jersey in coach Bill Parcell’s face, and he was traded to Cleveland. After signing as a free agent with San Francisco, the 25-year old Bryant is now seen as a team leader:

Bryant is the same 6-foot-2, 188-pound receiver who arrived with so much promise as a second-round draft choice of the Cowboys in 2002. At 25, he’s still a young player with potential. But the more he changes teams, the more Bryant changes.

His offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, calls Bryant “a good example.” His quarterback, Alex Smith, calls Bryant “dependable.”

It’s a good article detailing Bryant’s path through the NFL…a path he thinks should have been as a #1 receiver, but he’s been on teams with other stars or teams that have drafted stars to overtake him. In San Fran he is THE guy, so this should be a breakout year for him:

On his third team in five years, Bryant finally is the unquestioned featured receiver. In Bryant’s two-plus seasons in Dallas, the Cowboys traded for Terry Glenn and then Keyshawn Johnson. In Cleveland, the Browns drafted Braylon Edwards.

But the 49ers signed Bryant to a four-year, $15 million contract to be Smith’s go-to receiver.

Bryant, though, is tired of losing. He has played on losing teams in three of four seasons, with only the 2003 Cowboys making the playoffs. While the 49ers have little hope of a winning record this season, Bryant plans on being a part of the turnaround of the once-proud franchise.

“I want to help,” Bryant said. “I want to take the skills I have and add them on to whatever else is here and be a good complement, so we can win. I want to win. If it’s for me to not have 1,000 yards or make Pro Bowls, but to be in a playoff, I would take the playoffs any day.”

Even the coach he threw a jersey at is now rooting for him to succeed:

Parcells is rooting for Bryant, who was traded to Cleveland for Quincy Morgan only four months after the jersey-throwing incident.

“This might be hard to believe, but I really did like that kid, and I did spend a lot of time with him,” Parcells said this week. “I’m glad things are going OK for him; I really am. If I did have any affect on him in a positive way, I’m happy about that.

“Some of these kids when you first start with them, it’s a new world for them and for you. You have to be patient. I was patient with Antonio. … If he did grow up and mature a little bit, that’s a good thing.”

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