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July 23, 2013

A six-pack of answers from Jason Garrett on Dez Bryant: From draft-day risk to immense respect

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was peppered with questions about receiver Dez Bryant at his news conference on Tuesday in anticipation of Bryant talking to the media for the first in training camp. Garrett on Sunday said Bryant was a “joy” to coach. Tuesday, he said he has immense respect for Bryant. It's quite a rise for someone considered a draft-day risk in 2010 _ who also was one more off-the-field incident away from being cut last year. 

Here is a sampling:

On how Bryant has grown since he was a rookie: 

“I think the biggest thing with Dez has to do with the thing that a lot of rookies have to do. They have to be more consistent people. Typically, when they’re more consistent people they’re more consistent players. Dez is a guy who has always had an ability to make plays. We saw that from Day 1 of his rookie mini-camp and again he was pretty productive in Year 1 and pretty productive in Year 2. But I think we all knew intuitively that he can play a heck of a lot better. And it had to do with being that day-to-day, being-a-pro type thing. It happens with every guy on your football team. I think if our veteran players, the most established guys on our team, reflect back on their early years they can probably reflect back on a real similar transition that they went through. And so we’re real proud of Dez, the approach that he has taken, his consistency in meetings, walkthroughs, on the practice field. It has a lot to do with maturity he’s made as a person. It reflects in his play. When you’re doing those things and doing things the right way, there is no way you can’t gain confidence. When a guy like that has confidence to add to his ability, he really becomes a heck of a player.”

 On if Bryant has become a truly consistent player: 

“Oh, I think it is a work in progress. It is a work in progress for everybody on our football team, coaching staff included. You’re always trying to get better in those areas. You never have that one down pat.”

 On how he has evolved as a route runner:

“He’s just gotten better. He’s more consistent -- Depths, angles, all of those things a quarterback wants to see. You’ve got to be where you’re supposed to be, when you’re supposed to be there. It is an old adage in football. The quarterback has to be able to have confidence to get back, seven-step hitch and throw it halfway in the air before he even turns. And when you get to that point you start being a good pass offense. You don’t want to be a guy, hey, he’s supposed to run it at 17 but it’s at 12. You can’t play consistently well on offense when you’re doing those things. And Dez, as he has matured as a person, as he’s matured as a player, I think that’s probably the biggest reflection for us when we evaluate him, just the consistency, where he’s supposed to be and when he’s supposed to be there.”

On Dez Bryant having stretches last year where he disappeared:

“When you break the huddle, Dez Bryant’s one of those guys the defense is looking for. When you become that kind of a player, defensive coordinators try to take you out of the game. That’s something that when you get to that status as a player, you have to understand that that’s your reality, and somehow, someway you still got to make it work. You got to be productive. As a coaching staff, we always try to put a player like that in a position where we have a favorable matchup. But sometimes they just try to take him away. One of the things that we believe in our pass offense is take him away, we’ll throw it to this guy, or we’ll throw it to that guy, or hand it to this guy. You got to be able to attack them in a lot of different ways as well as trying to put your guys in the most favorable positions. But he’s got to get used to that. The great players have to get used to getting attention from the other team. Defensive coordinators in this league are good. They understand what the strengths of teams are and they’re going to try to take them away from you.”

On Dez playing through finger injury:

“I think immense respect. Mental and physical toughness is the think I think that garners you the most respect in this league from your teammates and from your coaches and from your peers. Playing through an injury is one of those things that’s a real easy example. Dez was pretty amazing. If you remember, he hurt his pinkie in the Cincinnati game, he scored a touchdown late in that game to help us win that game with the broken pinkie. I told you guys the story last year when he came into my office really emotionally, almost breaking down when he heard that we might have to put him on IR. He said that there’s no way that I’m doing that. I’m playing. Sure enough, he figured out how to get a splint on his finger to play and he played well down the stretch, as well as he played throughout the whole rest of the year.”

 On if the Cowboys were seriously thinking about putting Dez on IR:

“Serious consideration. A player like that, in his career. He’s a receiver, it’s a hand injury. All those conversations we had. All those conversations after that Cincinnati game, and there was a real, honest consideration.”  

On spreading the ball around from the best players & making sure no one gets stagnant:

"It’s a balance. Dez Byrant is a playmaker for us. Jason Witten is a playmaker for us. Miles Austin is a playmaker for us. DeMarco Murray. Certainly you want to put your quarterback Romo in a position where he can make plays. You are always evaluating those things. But if you become a one-trick pony on offense you ain’t real good. You’re only throwing it to one guy it’s easy to take it away. You have to be able to do a lot of different things, and I think Dez caught 93 last year. Witten caught 110. Miles battled through a injury plagued year that he fought through and I think he caught 70. It’s just part of what we believe in as an offensive football team. We want to strike that balance each and every week."

Clarence Hill

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