Report: Nolan placed too much blame on Bryant in clash with Smith

When it comes time to fill out my ballot for postseason awards, I have a pretty good idea whom I’m going to tab as “Comeback Player of the Year.”


Right now, Buccaneers receiver Antonio Bryant has my vote.

Bryant is having a fantastic season. He was phenomenal Monday night in a losing effort against the Panthers, catching nine passes for 200 yards.


Of course, I was around Bryant one season. He was great to cover, too. He is bright and insightful, and very easy to approach. In other words, he was a lot different than his reputation.


An article written by Sean Jensen for Yahoo! Sports caught my attention this evening. There are many interesting aspects of the report, including the clear indication that former coach Mike Nolan has much fonder memories of Antonio Bryant than of Alex Smith.


Here are some of the 49ers-related highlights:


–Bryant clashed with Smith, and that was one of the reasons the 49ers released him. Bryant said Smith operated under a different set of rules and that he was slow to pick up the 49ers offense, according to the article.


“You go to practice, and you go over something over and over again. When are you going to figure this out?” Bryant said in reference to Smith.


–Nolan admits to mishandling Bryant and said he regretted the decision to release him.

“He was the best receiver we had in San Francisco in the time I was here,” Nolan said in the article. “Looking back on it, I actually made a mistake in letting him go. I think I put too much blame on Antonio, as far as his relationship with the quarterback. . . . As it turns out, it was not all his doing. I blamed him for more than he should have been blamed for. There’s no question he was making more effort than I was made aware of. I truly regret that.”


(I made an attempt to get in contact with Smith earlier today, but have not heard back from him.)


–Nolan said he wanted to bring back Bryant but was rebuffed by “team officials.” (If you recall, Nolan did continue to speak highly of Bryant last season after he was released.)


–Before he was released, Bryant agreed to meet with the 49ers in Indianapolis during the NFL scouting combine. He begrudgingly agreed to a psychological evaluation, but was offended almost from the moment he sat down.


“A white woman comes in,” Bryant said, “and the first thing she said to me was, ‘I can help you. My husband is black.’ . . . “Once she told me that, I looked at her like, ‘That was it.’ So I got a problem because I’m black? I felt insulted. Then she was asking me crazy questions.”


(The 49ers have employed a psychologist to help evaluate the mental state of draft-eligible players at the combine.)


–Nolan did repeat an anecdote he shared with the local media while he was still coach. He said Bryant had a very good handle on the pulse of the team. Bryant was in Nolan’s office and Nolan challenged Bryant to identify the leaders on the team. On a single sheet of paper, Bryant listed clear leaders, potential leaders and players who were not leaders. He went through everyone on the team, without the use of a depth chart or any other reference tool.


Nolan said he was in agreement with “95 percent” of Bryant’s views. Nolan still has that piece of paper, he said.


To read the entire article, “Bryant using breakthrough season to repair image.”


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And, speaking of Yahoo! Sports, it was nice to get a shout out from Michael Silver (and Brazilian 49ers fan Felipe) today in the “Trippin’ on E(mail) section of his The Gameface column.


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With the 49ers getting ready to play the Dolphins, I figured the obvious story was about the Dolphins’ “Wildcat” formation. The Dolphins PR department touts the success the team has enjoyed with that new/old concept. But I wanted to come from a differnt angle. I wanted to write about the 49ers’ foray into the single-wing this season with Michael Robinson.


I asked 49ers representatives whether they kept track of the team’s usage of the formation. The answer I received was, yes, the 49ers have those stats, but Mike Martz does not want anyone to know them. I wonder if his answer would’ve been different had the team been more successful in that formation . . .


Anyway, here’s the article I wrote for Saturday’s paper, “Robinson understands the single-wing.”


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