Ex-Raiders ‘White Tiger’ Breaks Silence on 5-Year Suspension

Martavis Bryant, playing for the Raiders in 2018, before his suspension

Getty Martavis Bryant, playing for the Raiders in 2018, before his suspension

Once upon a time, coach Jon Gruden (remember him?) likened the Raiders’ Martavis Bryant to an NFL white tiger. Gruden said that, back in Tampa at Busch Gardens, the zoo housed a white tiger, who would mostly just stay in and lounge around his cage.

Every now and then, though, you’d get a glimpse of that white tiger. And it was magnificent.

“You go 12 times or 13 times, the white tiger was always in his cage. But the white tiger came out today,” Gruden said then of the enigmatic Raider. “(Martavis) Bryant came out. I don’t know if you get that analogy but sometimes he comes out to play and sometimes he doesn’t. It’s good to see him because he’s really special, like the white tiger.”

We know now, of course, that the problem for Bryant was never his talent or his love of football or his grasp of the playbook—it was his substance abuse problem. It had gotten him suspended multiple times during his career in Pittsburgh and ultimately ended his career with the Raiders, when he was suspended in 2018.

But Bryant made his return to the NFL this week, when he signed with the Cowboys to join their practice squad.

“It’s everything, it’s been a long process,” Bryant said. “I went through a lot in those years I didn’t play ball, you know. Getting down on myself, wanting to give up on football, but at the end of the day, I had to look myself in the mirror, face my own demons and get myself together.”

Tough Times for Martavis Bryant After Raiders

There is the potential for a happy ending for the Martavis Bryant, then, after his troubled tenure with the Raiders in 2018. He was released on September 1 that year when he was initially suspended, but was re-signed on September 12 after the league allowed him to play during his appeal.

Bryant made his Raiders debut that week with four catches for 30 yards. He played eight games and caught 19 passes for 266 yards. In December, though, he was suspended “indefinitely.”

Bryant said that his time away from football was difficult. He struggled with his mental health.

“(I went) to places you can’t even imagine, man, some really dark places and times. I really would not like to talk about it, you know, because I worked so hard to get through those moments. But it was a dark time for me.”

Ultimately, Bryant kept working to get back on the field. He played in the Arena League and in the XFL to get himself ready for a return to the league. He also had to convince Roger Goodell’s office that he was ready to be in the NFL again.

“First off, it started with the NFL, I had to go through six months of testing, you know, counselors, doing a lot of things they asked me to do,” Bryant said. “My agent reached out to a lot of teams, let them know I was gonna be reinstated soon. And Dallas was interested.”

‘Sky’s the Limit, Man’

Now, he’s hoping we see a much different Martavis Bryant, one that maybe the Raiders wish they’d signed. He is only on the Cowboys’ practice squad, so is eligible to be signed to another team’s 53-man squad.

Bryant said he will still be the same explosive player he was in the beginning of his career, when he showed star potential in Pittsburgh.

“Sky’s the limit for me, man,” Bryant said. “I know I’m 31 but, still fast, still big, still want to play football. I haven’t lost anything, you know? More of a proving point to me, I got a lot of doubters out there, it’s more me proving to myself that I still got it.”


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