The Edmonton Elks have assembled quite the eclectic group of names in the receiving core for Chris Jones’ first season at the helm, bringing in $300,000 man Kenny Lawler, re-signing Derel Walker and dragging Adarius Bowman and Manny Arceneaux off the scrap heap.
Added to that mix last week was the most intriguing name of all, former NFL star Martavis Bryant. The controversial one-time Pittsburgh Steeler turned 30 in December, but is finally ready to seize a new pro football opportunity in Canada.
“I know I still got it. It’s not about proving to people what I can still do. I’m doing this for me and my family. I’m not worried about the outsiders looking in,” the former NFL fourth-round pick told Chris Rosvoglou of The Spun.
Bryant first signed in the CFL with the Toronto Argonauts last year, but never made his way to Canada due to apparent passport issues. He spent the 2021 season on the suspended list and was released in December, allowing Edmonton to scoop up the embattled pass catcher.
Selected 118th overall in the 2014 NFL Draft, Bryant made 26 receptions for 549 yards and eight touchdowns in 10 games as a rookie with the Steelers, establishing himself as a deep threat in the NFL. He improved on those numbers the following season, catching 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns.
The Clemson University product was suspended for the entire 2016 season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy regarding cannabis. He was reinstated prior to the start of the 2017 campaign, recording 50 catches for 603 yards and three touchdowns, but was traded to the Oakland Raiders that off-season.
Bryant would play just eight games for Oakland, before being released and handed an indefinite suspension from the NFL for another marijuana violation. He applied for reinstatement in 2019, but has not had recent conversations with NFL teams and insists he does not view the CFL as a stepping stone back to the U.S.
“That’s too far ahead for me. I’m just taking this one day at a time. I just need to play my cards right and go from there. My first step is going to Edmonton and proving I still got it,” Bryant said.
“My expectation is to go in there and work hard regardless. I’m not sure of the role yet, but I need to earn what I want. So I got to go out there and work hard.”
The six-foot-four, 210-pound receiver had all the tools to be a dynamic CFL receiver in his prime, but how he performs now, more than three years removed from his last NFL game is an open question.
Never one to lack confidence, Bryant had a message to Elks fans as to what they should expect come his arrival in the City of Champions.
“The same thing you’ve seen in the NFL. I’m going to give it my all, make some big plays and be there for my teammates,” he said.
“The story is just beginning. It’s going to be an awesome story.”