Dez Bryant’s latest legal brouhaha hasn’t escaped the eye of Dallas Cowboys executive vice president/COO Stephen Jones.
The Boston Herald reported Wednesday that a New York-based finance company has filed a $100,000 lawsuit against Bryant for allegedly not repaying a loan that is more than a year overdue. The star wide receiver was served with two other lawsuits earlier this year seeking $800,000 in repayment of other loans and items that included jewelry.
Bryant’s situation is especially troubling because he shouldn’t be experiencing money woes. Bryant is believed to have already earned more than $9 million as part of the five-year contract he signed as a 2010 first-round draft choice.
Appearing on Sirius XM NFL Radio with me and co-host Gil Brandt, Jones expressed that Bryant is working to address his lawsuits and avoid making similar mistakes in the future. Jones, though, did say that the 23-year-old Bryant must learn “to get his hands around what he’s doing off the field.”
Otherwise, Bryant risks having the stress and pressure from financial problems trickle-down and hinder his football efforts. Bryant is second on the Cowboys in receiving this season with 57 catches for 858 yards, and tied for a team-high nine touchdown catches.
“Any time you have issues that are in the public you wish they weren’t there,” Jones said Wednesday night. “I think most of these incidents revolve around things he did early on when he first got in the NFL. I think he’s learning from that, but there are still some lingering things that probably if he had to do over again he’d do differently.
“We’ve obviously sat down with him on numerous occasions to give any advice we can. Hopefully he’ll be able to correct those things so it doesn’t affect what he can accomplish on the field. If you don’t clean those things up, they tend to affect your career. He understands that.”
Jones did receive better news Wednesday when quarterback Tony Romo returned to practice after missing almost all of last Sunday’s 20-7 loss to Philadelphia with a bruised hand. Romo was benched in the first quarter after hitting the helmet of Eagles defensive end Jason Babin on a passing follow-through.
Jones said Romo will “be at his best” Sunday night when Dallas (8-7) plays the host New York Giants (8-7) for the NFC East title.
Romo and the Cowboys will be returning to MetLife Stadium for the first time since the 2011 season-opener against the New York Jets. That 27-24 loss served as a harbinger for things to come with the Cowboys. Dallas squandered fourth-quarter leads in four other defeats this season, including a 12-point advantage against the Giants in a 37-34 home loss three weeks ago.
Had the Cowboys held onto leads in those games and pulled away in the NFC East race, Jones said Sunday night’s Dallas-New York rematch would be “meaningless right now. We’d probably be doing like some of the other teams in the league and maybe resting a player or two who needs to get a blow before the playoffs.”
Asked whether he is concerned that Dallas lacks the killer instinct to finish off a trailing opponent was justified, Jones said, “Obviously, there’s a question mark there and rightfully so. It’s something we’re working to correct. I think we’ll see some of that when we play the Giants on Sunday night.”
A victory against New York also would help alleviate criticism again being directed toward Romo for his role in the team’s fourth-quarter collapses and ongoing struggles in big-game settings. Jones said Romo is “right behind” Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers and New Orleans’ Drew Brees in terms of stellar quarterback play, but acknowledged a monkey remains on Romo’s back.
“When you’re the quarterback of the Cowboys, until you win that big one — we had Danny White here forever who was maligned — there’s going to be question marks,” Jones said.
Since winning three Super Bowls in a four-year span in the 1990s, the Cowboys haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs in 15 seasons. The Cowboys remain one of the NFL’s flagship franchises, but Jones — the son of Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones — knows that popularity isn’t guaranteed to continue unless the team improves.
“We have to figure out a way to be more successful on the field,” said Jones, who works under his father on roster decisions as the Cowboys’ director of player personnel. “That means winning Super Bowls. We had a great run in the ’90s. In our opinion, we’re way overdue.”
Jones gave an endorsement to Jason Garrett as being the head coach who can help Dallas re-reach those heights.
“I’ve never seen anybody so committed to becoming the very best head coach that he can become,” Jones said. “He’s only been a head coach for almost a season and a half now. As any head coach who has been in the league for an extended time will tell you, you learn a lot along the way.
“In our opinion, he is one of the bright young coaches coming up who is going to do nothing but get better and lead our team to bigger and better things in the future. We think he’s going to lead our team to great things this year.”
For that to happen, the Cowboys must win Sunday. Jones has expressed concern about his team’s maligned pass defense, especially the secondary, but is happy with the game plan Dallas is installing to try and stop Giants Pro Bowl quarterback Eli Manning.
“We feel comfortable that we could go in and play a good game,” Jones said. “We feel like we can move the ball well against them. Our biggest challenge is going to be trying to slow down Eli (Manning), but we feel good about our chances.”