OXNARD, Calif. _ Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has yet to speak directly to receiver Dez Bryant, whose latest off-field incident includes a misdemeanor charge for hitting his mother, Angela Bryant, at her home in DeSoto. He said he wants to learn more details before having that conversation.
But Jones issued a wake-up call, of sorts, to his receiver today while expressing plans to continue supporting Bryant in his maturation process.
“There is no doubt that Dez Bryant is exceptionally talented,” Jones said in his first public comment about the incident. “I think he, like us all, has got to realize where your bread is buttered. You’ve got to realize that (continued success) is not there for you if you do not adhere to society’s rules. He’s got to realize that ... there are consequences, and we will deal with those as we move along and get more information.”
For now, Jones expects Bryant to take part in Monday’s opening workout of training camp. He said the Cowboys take the allegation “very seriously” but remain “very supportive” of Bryant and his mother as they seek to work their way through an issue that involves the DeSoto police and could involve NFL-related sanctions for violation of the league’s conduct policy.
Angela Bryant, who placed a 911 call in regard to the incident, has declined to press charges but the final decision is up to the Dallas County district attorney. Asked if league officials have asked to speak to Bryant, director of player personnel Stephen Jones said: “I can’t talk about that.”
But Jones’ father, the Cowboys’ owner and general manager, made it clear that Bryant is a player whose skill set is such that the Cowboys will grant him greater latitude in the maturation process than others. Much like they did with Michael Irvin, who became a Hall of Famer despite some well-chronicled off-field incidents in the 1990s.
“You certainly couldn’t have 53 players ultimately on your team that give the kind of consideration and time that you do to Dez,” Jerry Jones said. “But you say, ‘Well, a number-one draft pick and an outstanding player, why not?’ I agree with that. Why not?”
Bryant, the team’s first-round pick in the 2010 draft, is penciled in to be one of the team’s starting receivers as well as the primary punt returner this season. Since leaving Oklahoma State after his junior year, Bryant has battled injuries at the NFL level but has averaged 13.8 yards per catch, with 15 touchdowns, despite starting only 15 career games.
Jones and coach Jason Garrett envision a potential breakout season in 2012 for Bryant, whose physical upside is immense. But he has made off-field headlines during his Cowboys’ career for a lawsuit about $600,000 in unpaid jewelry expenses (later dropped) and for being kicked out of an upscale Dallas mall after a dispute about his saggy pants.
During the 1990s, Jones’ teams won three Super Bowl titles in a four-year stretch (1992-95) with a roster that included multiple contributors who surfaced on local police blotters or generated less-than-flattering off-field headlines. That is why the Cowboys’ owner is willing to play a longer waiting game with Bryant, 23, than he might with other players.
“I have seen … players that (required) a little heavier lifting than other players help you win championships,” Jones said. “High maintenance. But I have been a part of that and have seen it work and not compromise the franchise, not compromise the NFL.”
In many instances, Jones said, “I think society is better for hanging in in those cases.” On the flip side, he acknowledged releasing some players he didn’t _ or couldn’t _ hang with long enough until maturity kicked in.
Where will Bryant fit on that list? Jones said it is imperative that his receiver begin making strides in “do-right matters,” especially in light of these latest charges. He said players today are held to “a higher standard” in terms of off-field behavior than when he purchased the team in 1989. And they should be.
“That’s very important to me and to the Cowboys and the NFL,” Jones said. “We’re very supportive of (Dez), his mother and his family. But the issue is very serious.”
_ Jimmy Burch