Pittsburgh Steelers defensive captain Cam Heyward is using his platform to advocate for the reinstatement to the NFL of one of his former teammates.
On his Not Just Football podcast, Heyward said that wide receiver Martavis Bryant, who played with Heyward from 2014-17, should be reinstated by the league.
Bryant was hit with an indefinite suspension by the NFL in 2018 after several failed drugs tests for marijuana usage. He applied for reinstatement in 2019, but has not been reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Since then, Bryant has been playing anywhere and everywhere, spending time with the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Elks of the Canadian Football League, at least two indoor football teams and then played this spring with the Vegas Vipers of the XFL.
With the Vipers, where Bryant played under former Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson, Bryant caught 14 passes for 154 yards this season. Vegas struggled to throw the bal all season, with both Jalen McClendon and Brett Hundley completing less than 60% of their passes.
As XFL players from the around the league are scooped up by NFL teams after the close of the season, including San Antonio Brahams cornerback Luq Barcoo, who the Steelers snagged on Monday, Bryant remains ineligible to return to the NFL. That’s something Heyward would like to see changed, citing the changed rules and attitudes surrounding marijuana usage.
“You look at guys like Martavis Bryant, and you look at Josh Gordon, and you see that the rules of the NFL have changed,” Heyward said. “If those things had changed before, those guys wouldn’t be out of the league. Those guys can play in the NFL. They’ve proven that. Let’s see if they can continue to do it, and they work their way back up.”
Since 2021, NFL players are now only required to test for marijuana once per season between the start of training camp and the club’s first preseason game. Players that fail the test are subjected only to a fine for most violations. The league also dramatically increased the testing threshold for a positive result.
“We see that society is changing its views, but views only change because key facts become more and more obvious to the people who make policy,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said at the time.
But Bryant, Gordon, and others that were suspended under the previous policy did not automatically have their suspensions vacated, and the talented receivers remain outside the NFL looking in this spring.