ALAMEDA, Calif. — On Monday, Martavis Bryant kept true to his routine.
The Raiders opened their regular season around 7:25 p.m. at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum against the Los Angeles Rams. Geographically, Bryant was nearby, but his thoughts weren’t. At least, he tried to avoid thinking about a franchise that cut him nine days earlier.
He didn’t watch the 33-13 loss.
”When I got suspended two years ago,” Bryant said Thursday, ‘I told guys, ‘When I’m away from football, I try to take myself away from it, so I don’t get distracted or overly frustrated with myself, end up doing something stupid.’ ”
Bryant can embrace the game now. On Tuesday, he returned to the Raiders’ facility and agreed to a one-year contract. On Wednesday, he practiced for the first time since he was cut. Bryant made Thursday his first public comments since his introductory news conference on April 27.
He admitted he was “very surprised” when the team cut him.
Beyond that, his focus is on football, not the side story.
What started in June as concern among people inside the Raiders’ organization about Bryant’s league standing — they feared the NFL was preparing a suspension for an alleged violation of its substance abuse policy — loomed into July and August. Matters of player discipline can take time. An appeal is part of that process. Here in September, he remains eligible for competition.
Bryant declined to discuss his status.
He said that he wasn’t irked by the initial report in June or those that have followed. On Sunday, ESPN reported that Bryant faces a year-long suspension.
“I don’t know nothing about none of that,” Bryant said. “All I’m here to do is play football. As far as that stuff, I’m going to let that process take care of itself. … (The reports are) not bugging me. I don’t have control over any of that. I don’t want to really discuss that right now.”
Indeed, Bryant is here now. The Raiders are glad for it.
While he did not watch Monday’s game, his absence was visible.
Coach Jon Gruden and the team traded a third-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Bryant on April 26 for good reason. His combination of speed and size is something not found elsewhere on their roster. Cordarelle Patterson and Johnny Holton offered the most speed of Oakland’s wide receivers in 2017. Patterson was traded in March to the New England Patriots. Holton is currently learning cornerback on the Raiders’ practice squad.
Wide receiver Amari Cooper was the closest thing to a vertical threat the Raiders had Monday. His route tree, however, is much more diverse than that. There were no deep attempts in his direction.
Bryant is better suited to run more of such routes.
“Fast player. Deep threat,” Cooper said. “Going to really take the top off of defenses, so we’re excited about that. He’s a guy who is really going to help open things up for us.”
Gruden nicknamed Bryant “White Tiger” during training camp. The moniker was a mixed label. Gruden explained that it was meant to depict Bryant’s special on-field abilities mixed with his evasive practice attendance, similar to a white tiger that lingers in its cage, out of sight from visitors. Bryant said Thursday that he doesn’t mind the nickname, believing that Gruden is merely trying to push him.
The Raiders will play the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
No more cage.
“I’m going to be ready to go,” Bryant said.
— Rookie defensive tackle P.J. Hall (ankle) was the only Raiders player to miss Thursday’s practice. He is not expected to play Sunday, although his official status will be announced Friday afternoon.
— Running back Marshawn Lynch (shoulder), center Rodney Hudson (ankle) and wide receiver Brandon LaFell (back) were upgraded to full participation. Five others were limited in practice for a second straight day: right guard Gabe Jackson (pec), running back DeAndre Washington (knee), punter Johnny Townsend (right quad), wide receiver Dwayne Harris (foot) and defensive tackle Brian Price (hamstring).