FRISCO, Texas -- Martavis Bryant's NFL comeback will happen with the Dallas Cowboys. The veteran wide receiver, recently reinstated by the NFL, worked out with the team on Tuesday and officially signed with Dallas' practice squad on Wednesday after Bryant had been out of the league since 2019.
"It feels great," Bryant said Wednesday. "So thankful for the opportunity. It's been a long process for me, but I stayed the course. I didn't give up on myself. I'm very grateful and happy to be here. It's [being back in an NFL team facility] been everything, It's been a long process. I went through a lot over these last years that I haven't been playing football, 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."
Bryant was formally reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell on Saturday, and he has made quick work in getting back on an NFL roster. Cowboys COO and EVP Stephen Jones confirmed the workout on Monday during a radio spot with 105.3FM The Fan.
"He's [Bryant] a guy that's a big, strong, fast receiver that we'll certainly take a look at," Stephen Jones said Monday, via The Athletic.
The 31-year-old entered the league as a promising wide receiver prospect out of Clemson. He was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft and spent four seasons with the franchise. He caught eight touchdowns as a rookie in just 10 games and then posted 765 receiving yards in 11 games played during his second year in the league.
While flashing at times, Bryant had run-ins with the league office for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He was suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the policy again. Then, in March of 2016, the NFL announced he was suspended for the entire season for another violation. Bryant was conditionally reinstated by the league in 2017, which would ultimately be his last season in Pittsburgh.
He was then traded to the then-Oakland Raiders in the spring of 2018, but he faced the possibility of a year-long suspension by the NFL for yet another violation. Bryant ended up playing eight games for the Raiders before the league came down with an indefinite suspension for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement.
"I just had a process that I had to follow, steps that I had to do," Bryant said of his reinstatement process. "Maintaining my sobriety, meeting with my counselor and doing the things that I was supposed to do to show them that I changed. I put the work in, I'm very proud."
Since that banishment by the NFL, Bryant has still been on the football scene, making stops in the Indoor Football League and most recently, joined the XFL as a member of the Vegas Vipers. His IFL stint motivated him more to get back to the NFL after having a collision with the wall in the back of the end zone.
"It was different for me," Bryant said of his Indoor Football League experience. "I ran into the wall so I had to give it up. I was like 'I can't do it.'"
Bryant's opportunity to work out with the Cowboys was a process six months in the making.
"First off, it started with the NFL," he said. "I had to go through like six months of testing, meeting with counselors and doing a lot of things that they asked me to do. Then, my agent reached out to all the teams and let them know that I was going to be reinstated soon. Dallas was interested."
Three-time First-Team All-Pro and current Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a college teammate of Bryant's at Clemson, has been one of the biggest factors in Bryant's return to football.
"DeAndre Hopkins was a big part of me getting back into this," Bryant said. "He hit me up, and I went out to Arizona [where Hopkins played for the Cardinals from 2020-2022] and started training with him. He has been with me through this whole process."
It's unclear how much Bryant still has left in the tank and his prior résumé does seem to be eye-catching enough for a team like the Cowboys to at least see if he's worth more than a practice squad spot.
"The sky's the limit for me, man," Bryant said. "I know I'm 31, but still fast, still big [6-foot-4, 211 pounds], still want to play football. I haven't lost anything. [It's] more of a prove-it-point to me. I've got a lot of doubters out there. It's more of me proving to myself that I still got it."
Now that he has made it back to the league and begins to practice with the Cowboys, his immediate goal is to go from being someone in a high-level athletic shape to football shape. Bryant said he had been running 22 to 23 miles per hour sprints in workouts. For context, Miami Dolphins All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hall has hit the fastest ball-carrier speed in 2023, clocking a 22.01 miles per hour speed.
"I've got to get in football shape," he said. 'I'm in shape but I've got to get in football shape. Football shape is different. … I just have to get my wind back under me."
At the moment, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Brandin Cooks, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Tolbert and Jalen Brooks make up Dallas' wide receiver room on the 53-man roster. Bryant already has a rapport with Cooks, who was also a part of the 2014 NFL Draft class. Bryant's role could be similar to that from his Steelers days, the deep-ball and red zone threat that led the Cowboys to believe he had something left in the tank. In head coach Mike McCarthy's eyes, "everything is to be determined" regard Bryant's potential role in his offense.
"Explosive player, I love to go down and catch deep balls," Bryant said when describing his game. "Anything that you need me to do, I'm going to go do it."
As a rookie, Bryant hauled in passes from a likely future Hall of Famer in Ben Roethlisberger, who ranks in the top 10 all time in passing yards (64,088 passing yards, fifth-most in NFL history) and passing touchdowns (418, eighth-most in NFL history). He sees some similarities between Big Ben and Cowboys two-time Pro Bowler Dak Prescott, who he may be catching passes from in the regular season in about a few weeks if he shows he still has the juice on the practice field.
"Great quarterback, determined and wants to win," Bryant said. "I don't see any difference between him and Ben honestly. He's determined to be great, and I'm here to help."