On the surface, Martavis Bryant looks like just another young athlete with marijuana issues. He started this past season with a four game suspension, and is being suspended again for the entire 2016 season, and although it’s for marijuana related issues, the problem runs much deeper than that. Bryant isn’t the party loving athlete who loves his weed, he is a young man who is battling depression, recently checking in to a depression clinic, and uses it to cope. There is a big difference between the two that some people just don’t understand, and to judge Bryant as someone who is choosing marijuana over an NFL career is completely unfair. It has been reported that the suspension he is serving, for the 2016 NFL calendar year, is for missing mandatory drug tests, not failing them (the league’s view is that a missed test is the same as failing one). Whether that is indeed factual or not, the underlying, and more important issue, is his battle with depression.
Since the announcement of Martavis Bryant’s second suspension, some fans have labeled him as selfish, stupid, and immature, among other things, while some have called for the Steelers to cut him loose. Sure it’s frustrating to see this happen, knowing the affects it could have on the Steelers offense next season, but at this point, the well being of Martavis Bryant the person is much more important than Martavis Bryant the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver. I’m sure Bryant is regretful of the fact that he let his teammates, fans, his family and the Rooney’s down by getting suspended, but I’m even more sure that he would choose to not have to suffer from depression, like so many people do. Up until now, marijuana was how he coped with depression, but what he needs, more than anything, is support, not judgement, and the counseling he is going to start receiving. The only difference between Bryant and the rest of us, is that he is a pro athlete who has given us many exciting moments. For him to be able to return to the field, he has to fix and take care of himself, Martavis Bryant the person, first.
By all accounts, Martavis Bryant is a good kid and teammate. His desire to get better is genuine, and his reaction to the challenge that Ben Roethlisberger publicly issued to him, prior to the wild card game, showed that he is more mature than people give him credit for. Bryant has owned his mistakes without excuses, and is taking the steps necessary to get himself better, and deserves the benefit of the doubt in light of his diagnosis. The road ahead of Martavis is long and isn’t going to be an easy one, but with the support of family and friends, he should be more than able to get his life and his career back on track. As someone who has family members who suffer from depression, I’ve seen how low depression can take someone, so I wish Martavis Bryant all the best with his efforts to get help for his depression and to learn how to live and function with it. Hopefully, in a year, he’ll get to come back and be the guy who tortures defenses and lives up to his nickname of the Alien.