The NFL has granted a conditional reinstatement to Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant. Based on the terms of the conditional reinstatement, it’s no different as a practical matter than a full reinstatement.
Unlike Josh Gordon’s conditional reinstatement of a year ago, which featured a return for training camp and the preseason followed by a four-game suspension to start the regular season, Bryant is back with the team. He can participate in “meetings, conditioning work and similar activities.” He’ll receive full permission to engage in “all preseason activities” as soon as he has made arrangements for ongoing treatment in Pittsburgh, a step that has a perfunctory feel to it.
Ultimately, Bryant will be cleared for the start of the regular season “[b]ased on his compliance and engagement with his program and resources.” Even without that limitation, Bryant would have been required to comply with his treatment and with testing following reinstatement after a banishment of at least one year. Calling the reinstatement conditional simply means that it will be easier for the NFL to pull the plug on his return than it would have been to suspend him again under the procedures of the substance-abuse policy if he had violated any of the terms of his treatment plan.
The best news for Bryant and the Steelers is that the NFL has opted not to drag its feet on his application for reinstatement simply because it can. The league has full power and discretion when it comes to reinstatement a year after banishment, and in multiple past situations there has been a sense that the league has moved to slowly to bring a player back. With Bryant, it seems he has gotten a fair shake. Whether that fair shake extends to Week One depends on his activities going forward — just as it would have if he’d been fully reinstated with no restrictions or limitation or conditions.