When I read Martavis Bryant was coming over to the Raiders in exchange for a third-rounder, I was as ecstatic as most of Raider Nation. With Amari Cooper, yanno, “getting there,” and Pro Bowler Jordy Nelson joining the ranks, a healthy, non-suspended Bryant is a threat to round out one of the most fearsome wide receiver corps in the league.
There’s just one little catch: Having completed his rehabilitation in Henderson, Nev., which is no more than a stone’s throw from a drive-thru marijuana dispensary, and now, moving to Oakland (home of Oaksterdam University, “America’s First Cannabis College,” for starters), he’d have to keep his left hand free of anything but pigskin in environments where the weed economy is so fluid a scalper could exchange tickets for a sack o’green. Now, rumors are swirling Bryant is headed back into the NFL discipline protocol.
The temptation is all around for NFL players in cannabis-friendly cities
I can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to be a high-profile NFL player with superstar potential, killer size and speed, an early exit from Clemson and a $2.7 million contract. I CAN, however, imagine what I would do if all of that would be thrown away by casually blazing up on my back porch: Quit.
Sure, there’s a lot of dialogue and proven science regarding mental health issues, pain management, and the benefits of medical marijuana. There is absolutely room for a discussion when it comes to changing the substance abuse policy in the NFL because both public opinion and verified medical data on marijuana usage is shifting in MMJ’s favor almost daily. But, I’d risk losing my job — possibly being arrested — and, at the very least, paying nosebleed amounts just to enjoy the benefits of taking a little puff. Ergo, I don’t.
Suggesting marijuana is addictive is like suggesting a celiac can’t go to Olive Garden without getting unlimited breadsticks.
I get it, they’re warm and yummy and who doesn’t love breadsticks? (Shut up, gluten haters!) but if that next breadstick will cost you millions of dollars (or even a severe bout of chronic diarrhea), stardom, and throw all your potential into the toilet, it’s not that hard to just stick with a salad (no croutons, please).
This isn’t an attack on Bryant, however. It’s praise for the Raiders organization.
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is famously impatient with those who don’t fall in line, and rightfully so. However, the Raiders have been making moves of late which suggest a different mindset. Dumping the passionate and fairly beloved Jack Del Rio was a move fans felt was a bit hasty until our old pal Jon Gruden showed up. While Del Rio is known for bringing boldness and passion to a talented but directionless team, Gruden is notorious for autocratically molding coal into diamonds.
Dumping Marquette King — and picking up Bryant — seemed like conflicting moves, but it goes to note that Bryant’s errors are more those of foolhardy ignorance. King’s offenses, on the other hand, are purely ego-driven. If you want an example of Gruden’s intentions with Bryant, look to the Cowboys’ star receiver who shares his surname, Dez.
While Dez Bryant’s stats have fallen (not exclusively due to his own performance), his off-the-field behavior is no longer a matter of discussion. With a commitment from known autocrat Jerry Jones, Dez was reigned in and became a steady, albeit declining, presence for the Cowboys and a continued threat which opposing teams had to account for. It’s not hard to imagine this path is what Gruden sees for Martavis, and he gets a pretty cheap chance to roll the dice.
If Martavis gets suspended for a year, the Raiders get a pass and can take that time to push him to whatever regimen they wish to prescribe (following the guidelines of the CBA et al). The NFL is not always the home of second chances, but when you possess breakout physical attributes, you can usually get one more shot. This is it, and no doubt Bryant, or at least his agent, sees that.
With just a year left on his contract — which will kick forward to next year if he gets a full season’s suspension — this is Bryant’s last chance to either grow up or move up north to the CFL, where no one dares to argue that a joint is “performance enhancing.”
So kudos to you, Raiders. Sure, everyone can say that a third round draft pick could have been better spent, but let’s see what happens. The Steelers “puff puff passed” (sorry) the pick over to the Seahawks in a swap that netted Pittsburgh a potential backup QB in OK State’s Mason Rudolph and Seattle project defensive end Rasheem Green from the house of busts, University of Southern Cal. Yawn.
Instead of those prospects who, if you ask their publicists, are ‘promising’, the win-now Raiders get a shot at a known top talent with an ‘addiction’ which any stoner who suddenly found himself with a family, a job that tests for weed, and a sense of reality will tell you is easier to pass up on as those salty, greasy breadsticks.
If he busts out for 2018, they get a second chance next year, when Gruden will have had the chance to further build and shape the franchise. While every sports writer is taking their pound of flesh out of the Raiders for taking a gamble, Mark Davis has already shown he’s willing to gamble, has at least a decent sense of risk versus reward, and has the right man in place to force Martavis in the right direction, whether it’s back onto the field, or out the door.
Until then, Bryant just needs to show more restraint when he’s hitting up the Olive Garden.