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Jon Gruden: Martavis Bryant can be a difference-maker

Somewhat lost in the excitement of Khalil Mack's trade to the Chicago Bears on roster deadline day was the Oakland Raiders' decision to excludeMartavis Bryant from the 53-man roster.

Bryant's struggles in training camp and the preseason made his unceremonious exit not very surprising even though the Raiders did give up a third-round pick for him on draft night. The Raiders' decision to bring him back on a one-year contract Tuesday was much more surprising.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden's hot-cold relationship with the mercurial wide receiver, however, seems to be in a better place than it was 10 days ago.

"I think he's healthy. I think he's ready to go. I'm sold on that," Gruden told reporters Wednesday. "We've been in contact with him since he's been away. And as I said when we made the trade to get him, when he's right, he can be a difference-maker. And we're hoping he can be one sooner than later."

Gruden wasn't afraid to criticize Bryant during training camp and the preseason when he didn't live up to expectations. The coach now seems more willing to give Bryant a break when it comes to his preseason inconsistencies.

"Well, I think one of the reasons he was outperformed was he was inconsistently available," Gruden said. "He was sick, he had lingering problems. But I think he's in a really good place right now ... and when he's in a really good place, he can be a really good player in this league. He's proven that."

The Raiders could use a reprise of Bryant's Pittsburgh prime. Oakland struggled offensively against the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. Wideout Amari Cooper was pleased to see Bryant back on the team, telling reporters he "will really open up the offense for us."

How long he'll be a contributor remains to be seen. As NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported, Bryant is facing the possibility of another suspension from the league for an unspecified violation, which would be his third in four years.

For now, the Raiders don't seem too concerned about Bryant making what could be an abbreviated return -- they're just happy for another playmaker on offense.

"I think that with us, we can be there for him and help him with whatever he needs and then he can help us win football games," quarterback Derek Carr said. "We obviously know what kind of talent he is, so we're very excited to have him back to have that threat and that speed."

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