Bryant says he didn’t know he couldn’t take helmet off

ARLINGTON, Texas — Dez Bryant assures that it wasn’t anger that got him flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct late in the third quarter Sunday.

The Dallas Cowboys wide receiver was called for offensive pass interference on third-and-15 from Minnesota’s 34. Bryant took off his helmet to argue the call and was hit with the 15-yard penalty, pushing the Cowboys back to the Vikings’ 49 and forcing a punt.

Bryant ripped off his helmet to yell at an official, which is against the rules, and had to be calmed down and escorted off to the sidelines by Jason Witten. Tony Romo also pushed Bryant to the sidelines.

“I wasn’t angry at the ref,” Bryant said. “I was trying to see what the call was. I thought they called pass interference on the defense. When I was trying to come out of my break, the guy was tugging on me a little bit and I was trying to break away from it.

“He threw the flag and the whole time I’m thinking it’s a flag on him. Then I took my helmet off and I didn’t know that that was a penalty. I was kind of shocked and then I heard the ref say, ‘He took his helmet off.’ I know now not to take my helmet off. If you go back and look at the play, you’ll see I’m shocked. I’m confused.”

Why take his helmet off in the first place?

“So he could see me clear,” Bryant said. “I took my helmet off so I could tell him. I didn’t know it was a flag because the play was over with. I’ll learn from it.”

The referee involved seemed annoyed.

Said referee Jeff Triplette: “Pass interference, No. 88 of the offense. That penalty is declined. Now, as I was about to make the announcement, unsportsmanlike conduct, No. 88 of the offense, taking his helmet off and arguing with the official. That penalty will be enforced. It will be fourth down.”

Bryant finished with six catches for 64 yards on a team-high 11 targets in the Cowboys’ 27-23 come-from-behind victory.

Follow Jon Machota on Twitter: @jonmachota