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Removed As Punt Returner, Bryant Looking To Regain Trust
IRVING, Texas – A fumbled punt. Removed from the punt return team, then re-inserted with the game on the line.
A remarkable touchdown grab only to be taken away because of a couple of fingers that went out of bounds. What wasn’t taken away was an injured hip on the play, something that has kept him out of practice this week.
And that’s just the football stuff.
Dez Bryant has had an emotional rollercoaster of a week already, throwing in the fact that his domestic violence charge involving his mother that occurred back in early July has not been resolved.
But Bryant said Thursday his focus remains on football, and it sounds like he’s preparing himself to play against the Falcons, despite his lack of participation in practice.
“Oh, I’ll be ready … but it’s there,” Bryant said of the hip injury that occurred on that near-touchdown catch. “I think I’ll be fine.”
Bryant, who hasn’t regularly talked to the media during the week this season, sounded rather humbled, especially when asked about the Cowboys removing him from punt returns.
“I understand it,” Bryant said. “I don’t like it because I want to do it. I’m going to continue to keep working at it. It’s not hard for me to catch a punt. I just need to feel it in and stop looking upfield and think before catching the rock. That should be my first objective, to catch the ball and then go make a play.”
After Bryant’s muffed punt, and then lost fumble, he was replaced by receivers Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris, who actually left practice Thursday with a neck injury and might be questionable to play this week.
The week before against the Panthers, Bryant also caught a punt over his shoulder and nearly lost it as he returned it up the field, even forcing head coach Jason Garrett to admit the next day the staff on the sideline was happy to see him get tackled and not have a fumble.
But Bryant vows to get it turned around.
“I promise you, man, I’m going to get back in their ear,” Bryant said. “I think it will be hard for him to tell me no.”
And things aren’t exactly great on the receiving end. While Bryant is second on the team in both catches (41) and receiving yards (488), he’s had some route-running issues that have led to interceptions this year.
Quarterback Tony Romo, who leads the league with 13 picks, has been seen several times this season on the sidelines discussing a particular route or angles, mostly after a miscommunication that led to a turnover.
“I trust Dez,” Romo said Thursday. “Each play is so important that we have to refine our skills and what we do to be very disciplined every time. Anyone who’s watched Dez growing from year to year, month to month, he’s been doing some great things for us, and he’ll be the first to tell you there’re a couple things he wants to do or wanted to do a little bit differently. He just needs to continue to grow and understand and work at the little details, and he is, it’s just a little bit of a process that goes through and I think you’re going to see a guy who’s going to get better and better and explode on the scene.”
The Cowboys have waited for that explosion for three seasons and at times, Bryant has shown glimpses of that.
But consistency, or a lack thereof, has always been a major aspect of his game. Against the Ravens, Bryant caught a career-best 13 passes, including his only two touchdowns of the year. But he dropped what would’ve been a game-tying two-point conversion in the final seconds.
And then last week, there was a poorly run route that led to an interception, followed by a fumbled punt. But yet, Bryant responds with a five catches for 110 yards and nearly had the game-winner on a play he admits he hasn’t let go just yet.
“Yeah, it pops in my head a lot,” Bryant said. “It’s made me think about things that I could’ve done differently. But when I think about it, it’s my instincts (to put his hand down). I don’t think anyone would’ve done anything different. I feel like we should’ve won that game.”
But even though the play didn’t count and the game was lost, Bryant said confidence is gained with a play like that.
“Of course … there was no doubt in my mind … when we called the play … there was no hoping we’d catch it,” Bryant recalled. “No, I knew I was going to catch it. I was going to go up and catch this ball. I can’t believe it happened that way.”
But it did, and it’s time for Bryant to move on. Now we wait for Atlanta to see if this game and this week can provide the same type of fireworks for the Cowboys’ most electric receiver.