JACKI LYDEN, HOST:
It's time now for sport.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LYDEN: This week, former Miami Dolphin's offensive lineman Jonathan Martin found a new home with his new team, the San Francisco 49ers. Martin tweeted this week that he's beyond blessed about being traded and can't wait to get to work. Jonathan Martin is, of course, the player who was the primary target of taunts and racist insults by his teammates on the Dolphins.
ESPN's Howard Bryant is with us now taking a break from the Indian Wells Tennis Tournament. Hello there Howard.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning Jacki. How are you? You know how much I love my tennis.
LYDEN: I do. I hope it hasn't started quite yet in the day though.
BRYANT: A little early.
LYDEN: So Martin's trade to the 49ers, this seems like a really good match. Can you tell us more about how he's faring, Howard?
BRYANT: Well, I think this is exactly what he needed. Everyone had talked about whether or not Jonathan Martin was going to be welcomed to play in the NFL by his teammates because there has been so much talk about whether or not he wanted to play in the NFL or whether or not this entire bullying thing was just some ploy for him to be paid well not playing football.
His dedication has privately been questioned everywhere, and there's no better place for him to go than San Francisco because his coach, Jim Harbaugh, was his coach in college at Stanford. He's got many of the coaches on that coaching staff; they already know him. The key to everything with Martin was going to be could he find an environment where he was going to even be given a clean slate? Because let's face it, for everything that we've read, and everything that we've heard, the culture inside the locker room is quite different.
And like it or not, Richie Incognito, even despite the devastating report that Ted Wells had produced about his taunts and his bullying and all of those incredible quotes that are in there, that there was a lot of support for Richie Incognito, that Jonathan Martin wasn't one of the guys. Was he going to be given a chance to be one of the guys? This is a great spot for him.
LYDEN: Good. Well, it's almost time for March Madness. Can you give me some tips about how to fill out all of my brackets?
BRYANT: I sure can. Close your eyes.
LYDEN: OK, they're closed.
BRYANT: Close your eyes, put a blindfold on, do whatever you have to do and then just pick because there's no great teams this year. This is going to be one of the most wide-open years ever simply because there is no great team. Wichita State is undefeated but they're ranked second. Florida is No. 1. Obviously those two may very well be the two best teams, but everybody else - Villanova's No. 3. They lost. Arizona's No. 4. They lost.
Kansas lost yesterday, so it is really - it is truly March Madness and it's what they've wanted so you can have your cat pick out your bracket for you this year. You'll be better off.
LYDEN: I'll tell her you said so. So, the tournament kicks of Wednesday. Just remind us, who are the first matches?
BRYANT: Well, we don't know yet.
LYDEN: Ah, of course we don't.
BRYANT: Because tomorrow is going to be the selection and so we've got to wait for the conference tournaments to be over. You'll know what the brackets look like Monday, Tuesday and then you'll have a good 48 hours to make your picks.
LYDEN: See, I thought you were omniscient. You can do anything. Oh well. Finally, Kobe Bryant is not coming back this season from his knee injury, but the question is whether or not he's out for good.
BRYANT: Well, the question to me had always been why did anybody think that Kobe Bryant was going to be the Kobe Bryant of old? Kobe Bryant has got a lot of miles on him. He's played a lot of basketball. Let's remember, he didn't go to college though. He's been playing professional NBA, 82-game grueling basketball plus playoffs, because he plays for the Lakers and they always make the playoffs, for, you know, 14 years. And so the narrative had been, well, Kobe's got this great legendary resolve. Well, that's all well and good but he's coming off an Achilles injury and he's old. So, time gets everybody in professional sports and Kobe Bryant is no different. I don't question is toughness, but age is one of those things that nobody can fight in professional sports.
LYDEN: Well, I don't question your toughness, knowing your age. ESPN's Howard Bryant. Thank you so much for being with us today.
BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.