As expected, Dez Bryant absent from Cowboys' mandatory minicamp
As expected, Dez Bryant was a no-show for the start of the Dallas Cowboys mandatory offseason minicamp.
Coach Jason Garrett, however, doesn't seem all that concerned about threats from Bryant's camp that the All-Pro receiver with the franchise tag is willing to sit out regular-season games without a new long-term contract.
"Dez is getting himself ready, he's in a situation where the business of the NFL is kind of taking precedence right now," Garrett said. Tuesday. "But he's working hard on his own away from our building. It's not a unique situation when you're a franchise player for guys to do that."
Since Bryant has not signed his franchise tag, he is technically not under contract. If Bryant and the Cowboys don't work out a long-term deal by the July 15 deadline, he would be locked into a $12.8 million salary and there could be no further negotiations until after the season.
Bryant caught 89 passes for 1,350 yards and an NFL-high 16 touchdowns last season, the end of his rookie deal that paid him about $11.8 million over five years. He has had at least 80 catches, 1,000 yards and 10 TDs in three consecutive seasons.
One of his agents, Tom Condon, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Bryant has told him that he is willing to sit out games. Condon said there have been no new talks lately with the Cowboys about a deal.
Bryant told NFL Network last week that the threat was "no rumor, it's legit."
If Bryant skipped any games with the $12.8 million franchise number, he would forfeit more than $750,000 per game.
The Cowboys' season opener is Sept. 13 at home, a prime-time game against the New York Giants.
Even without a contract, Bryant has showed up at the team's Valley Ranch facility a few times this offseason. He has met with coaches and even took part in individual drills during an OTA session earlier this month.
"Dez loves the game. That's the greatest thing about Dez Bryant is he's just a football junkie," Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones told The Associated Press during a recent interview. "He loves to play. He loves to keep himself in shape. He's just an avid guy when it comes to his job and playing the game of football. I think that's what makes him so special. "
Jones said then that the Cowboys' hope was to get something done, but also pointed out that Bryant was taking a big risk putting off signing the franchise tag to fully guarantee that money.
"It doesn't really hit them until they miss a paycheck," Jones said. "With any player, the preparation's huge. I would submit to him he should be in here practicing and getting better and getting prepared to have a huge year. Because he's going to make a lot of money this year one way or another."
Receivers coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday that he has had communication with the energetic 26-year-old Bryant this offseason, and that "he's the same guy every time I see him."
Like Garrett, Dooley knows Bryant is working out hard on his own.
"I don't worry about him working out at all, however, you can do a million reps of this, run that, the only way to get in football shape is to play football," Dooley said. "He's going to be in great physical condition, but there's a difference being in good physical condition and being in good football condition."
While Bryant was absent for the start of the three-day minicamp, linebacker Rolando McClain was present. He went through a walkthrough earlier in the day, but only did about 15 minutes of rehab work on the side during the session open to reporters.
McClain had 108 tackles last season, but is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery this offseason. He had missed earlier offseason team activities while rehabbing at home in Alabama.
Approached by reporters after practice, McClain said he had no comment but joked that he would talk when Bryant was back with the team.