Bryant fi­nally catches on

Cow­boys re­ceiver takes three years to de­velop into star.

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL - RON JENK­INS / FORT WORTH STAR-TELE­GRAM

Find­ing greater mean­ing in pro foot­ball th­ese days can some­times be a painful, and of­ten fruit­less, task but I give you . . . Dez Bryant? Se­ri­ously. He has earned it. The les­son in Dez is to never for­get the rule of Tom Landry: We are al­ways bet­ter to wait a bit be­fore mak­ing a fi­nal call on any­thing.

About six months ago, Dez was sit­ting by his mother in the law of­fices of Royce West try­ing to ex­plain a domestic dis­pute. Around that time the con­sen­sus was Dez is a man-child who will never learn. And, he isn’t worth the headache be­cause the pro­duc­tion would never in­ter­sect with the po­ten­tial. That Jerry Jones should never have pulled rank to draft this kid.

It is nearly im­pos­si­ble to en­vi­sion the Dal­las Cow­boys go­ing into the fi­nal game of the reg­u­lar sea­son against the Red­skins with a chance to win the NFC East with­out Dez.

Their best chance may be Dez.

The les­son in Dez is to al­ways fol­low the rule of Tom Landry: You have to give a player three years; a player by his third year ei­ther gets it, or he doesn’t.

This is Dez’s third year, and it does ap­pear as if he is get­ting it.

In the last eight games, Dez has 46 re­cep­tions for 808 yards and 10 TDs. He neutered the Saints’ de­fense on Sun­day with nine catches for 224 yards and two touch­downs.

“(The Lions’) Calvin John­son and Dez Bryant are the two best wide re­ceivers in foot­ball right now,” said former Cow­boys re­ceiver and cur­rent NFL Net­work mouth Michael Irvin.

In this stretch, Dez also had a “sources con­firmed that he is go­ing to be placed on in­jured re­serve with a bro­ken in­dex fin­ger” against the Ben­gals on Dec. 12. Since he suf­fered that “sea­so­nend­ing” in­jury early in the fourth quar­ter of that game, he has caught four touch­downs.

“He’s done an amaz­ing job with that fin­ger; it doesn’t seem to af­fect him in any way, shape or form,” Cow­boys coach Ja­son Gar­rett told re­porters on Mon­day. “I think he’s grow­ing. He’s play­ing with a great deal of con­fi­dence. He and (quar­ter­back) Tony Romo have a really, really good re­la­tion­ship. He’s been good, there is no ques­tion about that.”

Much like his en­tire team, no one could ever say Dez does not care.

Much like his en­tire team, no one could say Dez al­ways played smart.

Of late, how­ever, it’s im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore that Dez is play­ing smarter, and that his quar­ter­back trusts this man to be where he is sup­posed to be when he is sup­posed to be there.

There may not be a Cow­boy in re­cent me­mory any more fun to watch, or scarier, than Dez. No one on the Cow­boys since The Play­maker can “go get it” the way Dez can.

Watch­ing him run away from de­fend­ers, hold­ing the foot­ball like a golf ball, no dif­fer­ent than Wal­ter Pay­ton, is highly en­ter­tain­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing.

It was all pos­si­ble sim­ply be­cause the Cow­boys never white-flagged Dez, and Dez ob­vi­ously never stopped try­ing.

Ridicu­lous ex­pec­ta­tions com­bined with con­straints of a salary cap have man­dated first-round draft picks play like five-year veter­ans.

Com­bine that with Dez’s well-known up­bring­ing that most of us sim­ply can­not imag­ine and you have the cliched recipe for First-Round Bust.

This does not mean Dez is go­ing to be has­sle free for the next eight years. The Cow­boys are very likely go­ing to have to be on guard for a while be­fore they don’t have to worry if Dez is out past mid­night on his birth­day. Yes, ap­par­ently Dez Bryant is also a Grem­lin.

Dez will likely still need “a pro­fes­sional friend” to hang out with him to pro­tect him from him­self, Lil Wayne or the North-Park Mall se­cu­rity team for a while longer.

What this stretch of games means is that the pro­duc­tion can meet the po­ten­tial, and Dez can be worth the headache.

What this stretch of games means is that Tom Landry knew what he was talk­ing about: Guys need time.

Cow­boys wide re­ceiver Dez Bryant runs for his sec­ond touch­down on Sun­day against the Saints de­spite break­ing an in­dex fin­ger on Dec. 12.

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