The Cowboys are roughly a week into their offseason conditioning program, and Dez Bryant has still yet to make an appearance for workouts at their Valley Ranch facility.
For all the stories and images that might conjure about Bryant’s discontent with his contract negotiations, it’s not an issue that seems to concern the Cowboys’ front office – far from it.
The three most influential members of the organization -– owner/general manager Jerry Jones, executive vice president Stephen Jones and coach Jason Garrett – held their annual pre-draft press conference on Tuesday afternoon. In between discussions about draft strategy, they fielded no shortage of questions about their star wideout’s absence from workouts.
"Dez has not been here. This is a voluntary period for us. There’s nothing mandatory about it," Garrett said. "But we’re fortunate. On our team we have so many guys who live in Dallas that are participating in the offseason program. It’s off the charts in a voluntary situation. Dez has not been part of that up to this point but he’s working hard."
It’s true that Bryant’s presence isn’t mandatory, but his decision not to show up is one of the few methods he has of arguing for a long-term contract. He hasn’t signed his franchise tender, and the deadline to sign that doesn’t until pass until July 15.
As innocuous as it might look to skip offseason workouts, the concern among fans and media would be that this will all continue to build into a more acrimonious holdout this summer when the Cowboys report to training camp.
But if Jerry Jones shares any of those concerns, he certainly didn’t make it known on Tuesday.
"Right now, I just don’t have an issue with where Dez is regarding workouts, because I know where his heart is. I know where his real efforts are," he said. "He’s working somewhere, and working hard, right now — maybe closer than we think. I have a lot of confidence in that and think that he’ll be available to really make a great contribution for us this coming year."
That’s more or less in line with what Jones said at the NFL’s annual meetings last month in Phoenix. Back then, he said he felt confident Bryant would play the 2015 season under the franchise tag if a long-term contract wasn’t reached.
Nothing he said Tuesday seemed to deviate from that mindset.
"The whole point is that we feel good about where we are, feel good that I know him in terms of where his love is and where his heart is and where his work ethic is," Jerry Jones said. "He, like all of us, has room to grow. Room to grow – that’s not to be confused with something that’s got to do with his contract."
Given the situation, it’ll be interesting to see when Bryant does actually show. The team’s three sets of Organized Team Activities go from May 26-28, June 2-4 and June 8-10. The Cowboys’ mandatory training camp is set for June 16-18, and they’re set to depart for training camp in Oxnard, Calif., in late July.
Regardless of the timetable, it doesn’t sound like a big concern for the Cowboys, who sound confident Bryant will be back in the fold – if not during voluntary workouts, then at least in time for the real work to begin.
"Dez has not been part of that up to this point, but he’s working hard. We love Dez Bryant. Dez Bryant’s a heck of a football player. He’s the right kind of guy. Got great football character and hopefully some of his situations from a business standpoint can be worked out and he’ll back in here working out with us."