By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Irving _ Consider receiver Dez Bryant a bright spot for the Cowboys heading into Sunday’s showdown against the Giants amidst the doom and gloom of last week’s controversial loss to the Cardinals.
Bryant had easily his most complete game of the season with a season-high eight catches for 86 yards and a touchdown, including a clutch, diving 15-yard catch to put the Cowboys in field goal range on the final drive.
He also had a 35-yard punt return to open the drive that would gave the Cowboys a first down at the 25 yard line, putting them in position for a closer field goal but it was called back because of a block in the back penalty.
Bryant overall numbers for season _ 46 catches for 706 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns _are modest considering the beast-like expectations of him coming into the season.
But his improved play and late game contributions are a huge step for him and the Cowboys, considering he has been shut out in the second half in four games this season.
Bryant credits it to him being as healthy as he’s been all year. He was hobbled early with a deep thigh bruise.
What also can’t be ignored is the resolution of a civil suit last week that has taken some weight off his shoulders.
“It’s all gone away,” Bryant said. “I feel like it’s been gone away. When I’m here, I’ve got to be focused. I’ve just got to keep moving forward. The weight is off the shoulders. I’ve just got to be careful and grow and learn from it. I’m just trying to make strides from here on out. I put it behind me. I love my job. I don’t want nothing to interfere with what I’m doing.”
Bryant’s attitude and improved play can be seen as examples of him maturing and learning how to be an professional. Bryant said he’s not a finished product yet on or off the field but he is not the same as was as a rookie last year when he was routinely fined for being late.
“I can honestly say I’m more mature,” Bryant said. “I look at a lot of things different. The little things do matter, like being where you’re supposed to be. I don’t even care if it’s a minute late. Just being there on time. Not saying I was late, but just using that as an example. Just making sure you’re watching film alone, a little bit more on your time, not just on the coaches’ time. Just making sure that you’ve got every thing down. I don’t want to say that I’m all the way there. It’s still a learning process for me. As long as I keep on talking to Miles and Tony and those guys, everything will be fine. They’re doing it the right way, and that’s the way I want to do it. It’ll happen.”
Bryant also believes that if he continues to do every thing the right way as well as continue to listen to receivers coach Jimmy Robinson will also result in a beast-like performance for him on the field.
He has yet to have a 100-yard receiving game, largely because the way team’s are game-planning to limit his production.
Although he has been frustrated at times, he said he is not bothered by it because he knows the Cowboys have a number of weapons and every one will get their opportunity.
As of now, he is going to stay patient and look for other ways to make plays, which is why he is excited to be back on punt returns.
“There is an excitement about punt returns. I love it,” Bryant said. “I have a feeling I need to be back there because I feel I can make something happen. I don’t want to sound like I’m too up on myself. But I’m ready to go. I’m going to try my best to get it done and make something happen.”