Martavis Bryant came with baggage when he arrived in Oakland this spring.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver missed all of the 2016 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Any further violations could mean the Raiders would lose him in 2018, when they hope he can add some speed and deep-ball playmaking ability to the receiving corps.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 211-pounder had three productive seasons with the Steelers, catching 126 passes for 1,917 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging 15.2-yards per catch.
After working with him this spring, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was excited by what he gives the offense.
“He is so fast, especially for a guy that big,” Carr said in May. Even on short routes and screens, Bryant’s speed makes every catch a threat to be taken all the way to the end zone.
Said Carr: “We’ve all seen him catch screens. It’s fun to watch.”
But now, with the start of training camp approaching in July, there’s a cloud hanging over Bryant.
Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported the Raiders are waiting for a ruling from the NFL that could lead to Bryant’s suspension.
“Multiple team officials declined comment as they left for a weekslong break before training camp, but they acknowledged the club is awaiting final word on the situation,” Gehlken wrote. “It is believed to pertain to the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.”
This week, Vic Tafur of The Athletic reported Bryant has not been notified by the NFL that he may be facing discipline, and that Bryant has not failed or missed a mandated drug test.
Yet as Michael David Smith of NBC’s Pro Football Talk reported Thursday, “It is possible for a player to violate the substance-abuse policy without failing or missing a test.” Smith noted that players can be disciplined, for instance, if they don’t adhere to requirements such as working with “a clinician” overseeing offseason activities and training. That also would be considered a violation, Smith reported.
Losing Bryant, 26, would be a blow to the Raiders offense going into training camp.
When Bryant was traded to the Raiders in April, he told reporters he was grateful for getting a fresh start.
Added head coach Jon Gruden: “I think a change of scenery can unleash his greatness.”