When the Steelers reported to training camp in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, last Thursday, the expected absence of star running back Le'Veon Bell was actually trumped by the unexpected absence of talented but troubled receiver Martavis Bryant.
You see, word quickly spread that Bryant's reinstatement after a year-long suspension for violating the NFL's drug policy multiple times was still very much conditional, and the young receiver had more work to do in order to get in compliance.
But was it a much worse situation than that (if you catch my drift)?
Social media as well as the talk shows, such as the one hosted by the very popular and controversial Mark Madden, were filled with speculation.
"Bryant isn't at camp, so he's still suspended!" Madden insisted over and over again.
Soon, word began to trickle down from those closer to the situation, such as beat writers who cover the team, that Bryant wasn't officially reinstated because he hadn't picked a rehabilitation facility (reportedly one of the stipulations of his conditional reinstatement)—or at least one that was deemed suitable by the NFL.
Again, though, was that true or just more speculation?
Fast-forward to about a week later, and (at least as of this writing) Bryant is still on the outside looking in regarding his status as a full training camp participant (he can attend meetings but isn't allowed to practice with his teammates), and people—especially the fans—have continued to wonder and speculate.
On Monday, Bryant was seen working out by himself on an adjacent practice field away from his coaches and teammates. If I understand this whole conditional reinstatement thing right (and I honestly may not), Bryant is allowed to be in contact with his coaches and teammates (referring back to those meetings), even if he isn't allowed to officially participate with them in practice.
Anyway, the BTSC story linked in the previous paragraph was followed by enthusiastic comments from fans, but it was also accompanied by some anger and disagreements.
"Damn that Godell!"
"Why are you blaming Goodell? How do you know this isn't on the player?"
"I blame the Steelers and Bryant for dropping the ball!"
"Whoa, don't blame the Steelers. This is on Bryant."
Bryant's delayed reinstatement has also led some media members and fans to fear the worst, such as perhaps another failed drug test.
Although, if Bryant did fail another drug test, it's doubtful he'd be anywhere but out of sight right now, instead of working out by himself with his nose pressed up against the glass of Steelers training camp, hoping to join his bosses and co-workers, as they prepare for a very important 2017 regular season.
But even that is mostly speculation (albeit logical), because, again, nobody really knows for sure what's going on.
The Steelers brass—including general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin—hasn't really shed much light on the subject, but from what I understand (and, again, I may not really understand this whole thing), Bryant's bosses aren't allowed to expound upon or perhaps even know much about one of their suspended (or, as of now, conditionally reinstated) employees.
That's the thing about these player suspensions: It became official in March of 2016 that Bryant was suspended for the upcoming season. And once a player is suspended, he can't have any contact with his team—including his bosses and teammates.
As a consequence, you as a fan are left to wonder about that player's well-being during the entirety of his suspension: ("Is he on the straight-and-narrow?") ("Has he decided to throw his career away in the name of marijuana?") ("Why did the Steelers draft that receiver in the second round?")
Since the NFL seems to be tight-lipped about everything regarding a player's suspension other than the fact that he's been suspended, you can't blame the fans for their confusion, frustration and anger.
After all, in the case of Steelers fans, they've had their fill of wondering about Martavis Bryant.
They just want to see him play again.