Sit down and chat with wide receiver Antonio Bryant for just a few minutes and you quickly realize a few things about the third-year wide receiver who arrived in Cleveland late last month with a lot of excess baggage.
First off, he has no plans to try and win friends and influence people by telling everyone he can be one of the NFL's premier receivers if given the opportunity, even though it might be true.
And he doesn't plan to go around telling people that what took place this past June in Dallas was totally out of character for him, or that it was just a small blemish on his otherwise impeccable reputation, even though that might be true as well.
Instead, topping Bryant's "to-do" list is to work hard and help the Browns win games by influencing outcomes with his performance on the field.
By doing that, he'll be able to show his true character and ability more-so than any words that he could utter.
He got off to a good start by catching two passes against the Eagles in his Browns debut, despite having practiced just a couple of days with his new team.
Then, in the Sunday Night rematch with the Ravens, he led the team with four catches and 43 yards in the Browns' 27-13 loss. Included was a clutch reception in the final two minutes that gave the Browns, trailing by just seven points, a first down on the Ravens' 5. Unfortunately, all went or naught when Ed Reed returned an interception 106 yards for a touchdown to clinch the victory for Baltimore.
Playing well and keeping his mouth shut will serve to quickly put behind Bryant the well-publicized jersey-throwing confrontation with Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells, an ugly incident that undoubtedly led to the Oct. 19 trade that resulted in Bryant coming to Cleveland and Quincy Morgan going to Dallas.
Bryant, the Cowboys' second-round draft choice in 2002, knows that the best way to prove himself to the people who now matter most in his career, his teammates and his coaches, is by his actions on and off the field.
Obviously, they are going to judge him by how well he performs in the heat of the battle. But it doesn't end there.
"They are going to judge you off what they see of you as a person," he said. "They look to see when you come off the field, how you are going to react and respond."
Most players do their "bonding" before the season begins, during the team's off-season workout programs, the numerous mini-camps and through the rugged two-a-days in training camp.
"There's a lot of camaraderie that you develop in camp," he said. "You go through that with the guys and earn a lot of respect because of everything you have to deal with, to persevere together."
But without having had that opportunity, Bryant knows his best chance to prove himself is through his actions. That is one reason why, while most of his teammates spent the entire bye week at home with their loved ones, Bryant stayed at the team's workout facility for three or four days to work out and acclimate himself as much as possible with the Browns' offense.
"I worked out and watched film," said the 23-year-old who grew up in Miami and played his college ball at the University of Pittsburgh, where he won the Fred Biletnkoff Award, presented annually to college football's top receiver.
"I got it (the offense) locked in my head so it is just second nature and I can feel more comfortable when I work on the field," he said. "The more you know, the faster (pace) you can play, and that's what it's all about."
Bryant insists that there is not much difference between the offense the Browns run and the one used by the Cowboys. "The whole NFL is a copy-cat league," he said. "Basically, they are the same plays with just a little different terminology."
Possibly the biggest differences are in the physical abilities of the quarterbacks with whom he has worked this year.
"With Jeff Garcia, the ball is never dead," he said, explaining, "He may scramble and you have to scramble with him. In Dallas with Vinny (Testaverde), he is not going to scramble like that. He (Testaverde) is going to throw the ball away. He's going to kill it. But with Jeff, he is going to keep that ball alive as long as possible and make plays."
In that he didn't arrive until Week Seven of the season, there is no way Bryant would have the opportunity to learn the Browns' entire playbook, which is not the problem some people might imagine.
"No team goes into any game with the whole playbook," he said. "Every week we have a select amount of plays."
Those plays are all included in the "condensed" playbooks that are passed out every week. "Just like everyone else, I go from there," he said. "There is nothing they will call during the game that will leave me out."
Asked what type of receiver he perceives himself to be, Bryant said, "I am the type of receiver who will go out and do anything I have to do, whether that is to catch deep balls or short balls. I will do whatever it takes to get the job done. I can do whatever they ask me to do."
Bryant showed his ability during his rookie season with the Cowboys when he became only the second Dallas rookie to open the season as a starting wide receiver, Michael Irvin being the other.
Bryant went on to earn All-Rookie honors and led all NFL rookies with 733 receiving yards. His 44 receptions were second-most of an NFL rookie and second on the Cowboys behind only Joey Galloway. His six touchdown receptions were second among NFL rookie receivers and tied for the Cowboys team lead.
But despite his excellent numbers, Bryant was relegated to being the team's No. 3 receiver last year by Parcells, in his first year as the Cowboys' head coach.
And Bryant knew that with Keyshawn Johnson and Terry Glenn on this year's roster, there was no way he was going to see the playing time he desired. That eventually led to the mini-camp jersey-throwing incident and the eventual trade to the Browns.
The Browns have no one close to Glenn or Johnson in terms of experience, thus there likely will be plenty of opportunities for Bryant to prove himself, if not this year then by 2005, the final year of his contract.
But Bryant has no intention of waiting until the '05 season to prove his rookie season was no fluke.
"However much playing time I get (this year) is something I do not totally determine," he said. "All I can control is my preparation and that is probably what they will base a lot of their decision on.
"I having been playing ball in the NFL now for three years and, really, there is not much difference in the plays being run here and in Dallas.
"I am just here to play football and be as successful as I can be. This is my job. This is what I do every day, just like you get yourself a story to write every day, I come here to prepare to be on the field every day."
Anything else that has happened, on or off the field, is not a concern of his right now.
"Honestly, I am just playing football," he said. "There is nothing else on my mind. I work out, go home, wake up and come back and play football. That's all that I worry about."
And as long as it stays that way, there could be plenty of good times for both Antonio Bryant and the Cleveland Browns down the stretch of the '04 season and in the years to come.