Dez Bryant is having a much different offseason this time, keeping the focus on football.
The third-year Dallas Cowboys receiver is spending more time with the playbook, watching more film and concentrating on his conditioning. Bryant is doing everything he can to earn the confidence of his coaches and quarterback Tony Romo.
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”I feel like I have learned a lot from all aspects, on the field, off the field,” Bryant said. ”I see a lot of things more clear now, and I’m more confident in everything that I do. On the field and off the field, I try to make the best choices possible, and I feel like I’m doing a great job of that.”
With a structured offseason, Bryant is finally getting a chance to take advantage of what he’s learned playing two seasons in the NFL.
Last summer, when Bryant was coming off a rookie season shortened by a broken leg, there were no organized team workouts because of the NFL lockout. So instead of football, the headlines about the receiver were about lawsuits related to hundreds of thousands of dollars in jewelry, baggy pants and mall security guards.
Then Bryant had a thigh bruise that forced him to miss the second game last season, when he admittedly never felt as good as he wanted. That could easily be blamed on the young receiver not having the opportunity for offseason conditioning in a team setting.
Bryant is already feeling the difference this offseason with the Cowboys, who wrap up four weeks of organized workouts Thursday with the end of a mandatory three-day veteran minicamp. They report to training camp in California at the end of July.
”I feel quicker, a little bit more burst,” Bryant said. ”But knowing everything, it only makes it better.”
Bryant caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games as a rookie, only five of those games with Romo before the quarterback got hurt. He had 63 catches for 928 yards and nine TDs last season, but at times wasn’t a factor in the second half or with the game on the line.
”His conditioning, I don’t think there’s any question watching him … you can see how he can help you win football games,” owner Jerry Jones said. ”His conditioning to me is where his focus is and where it should be. If we can have him better conditioned, then we’ve got a chance to see him more focused in the latter part of games, as opposed to the first part of games. `’
The Cowboys list Bryant at 218 pounds, and the 23-year-old receiver tweeted earlier this month that his body fat was only 3.1 percent.
Bryant now realizes how overwhelming it was making the transition from college to the NFL, and the impact of decisions he made on and off the field.
When asked if he was finally past that transition, Bryant responded, ”Yeah, of course.”
Based on what the Cowboys are seeing, that would be difficult to dispute.
”I know one thing,” Jones said, ”He certainly is different as far as his maturity and as far as his understanding of what it takes to play in the National Football League than when he got here.”
Romo said Bryant has to keep working hard, adding, ”He’s just going to get better and better every year.”
Like any receiver, Bryant wants the ball thrown his way as much as possible. But he emphasized that it’s up to him and other receivers to do their best to impress the quarterback, offensive coordinator, head coach and receivers coach.
”He has done an excellent job in the offseason program, both in his lifting and his running, and he’s carried that to the field,” coach Jason Garrett said. ”And he has to do exactly that, he has to go out there and do what he’s supposed to do on a consistent basis, day in and day out and he has to earn that trust. There’s a lot of trust that he’s earned already in his career. … But he too has to take the next step, and he’s going about it the right way in the offseason program, and it’s a work in process for everybody.”
Garrett went on to the say the best quarterbacks and receivers he has been around could play together for 10 years and still be working at refining and getting better.
”That’s a process (Bryant) and Tony are going through right now,” the coach said.
Bryant said a big deal for him right now is being comfortable, and that he is feeling more that way.
”Each year was a learning process. It just got better,” he said. ”And I feel like it’s already much better than last year.”
Notes: LB Anthony Spencer missed practice because of what Garrett described as a ”banged knee”. … Defensive end Tyrone Crawford, a third-round pick in the April draft, signed his rookie contract. The Cowboys have signed four of their seven draft picks. … Cowboys executive vice president/director of player personnel Stephen Jones, said it is ”more than likely” that cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder) will begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. … The Cowboys hold their final minicamp session Thursday at Cowboys Stadium.