''He barely practiced in training camp and now this happens,'' said a league source with knowledge of Bryant's knee problems. ''The guy can't stay healthy at this point. He gets to the point that he's feeling good, then it swells on him again. When that keeps happening, that's a very strong indication that there are structural problems."
Bryant had offseason surgery on the knee and signed a four-year, $28 million deal with the Bengals in March. He practiced on the opening day of training camp, but didn't practice again before being let go. Bryant got a $7.85 million signing bonus and would have made another $3 million in base salary had he made the team.
He told reporters during camp that the muscles around the knee weren't strong enough to support the surgically-repaired joint. This happened after the Bengals' medical staff saw Bryant before training camp and pronounced him in good enough shape to practice.
Peter Schaffer, Bryant's agent, said Bryant was not expected to have further surgery and expected Bryant to play again this season.
Schaffer didn't indicate if he planned to file a grievance against the Bengals for releasing Bryant while he was injured. Such grievances are considered standard in cases like this and both NFL sources said they expect one to be filed.
Bryant's knee problems became a significant issue last season when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played 13 games and finished with only 39 receptions for 600 yards and four touchdowns.
''He just couldn't move some weeks,'' Barber said. ''He tried, but it obviously was bothering him.''
Bryant, 29, had an impressive 2008 season, when he posted career highs in receptions (83), receiving yards (1,248) and touchdowns (seven). Bryant, a former 2002 second-round pick by Dallas, had bounced around the league and dealt with drug and anger issues to become a good teammate in Tampa Bay. But the Bucs declined to re-sign him, in large part because of the knee problems.