ARLINGTON, Texas – It didn't take long Sunday for the Cowboys to try to work Dez Bryant back into the flow of the offense. On the opening play from scrimmage against the Seattle Seahawks, Matt Cassel missed Bryant on a short slant route.
But, factoring in the time Bryant has missed since the summer – a large portion of training camp and preseason with a hamstring injury, then the last five regular-season games following surgery to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot – the All-Pro receiver's healthy return Sunday was a welcome sight for a Cowboys offense that's mostly been missing a big-play element since his Sept. 13 injury in Week 1.
Playing a good number of snaps, Bryant had two catches for 12 yards in the Cowboys' 13-12 loss at AT&T Stadium. Expect those numbers to rise with more time on the field – he returned to practice on a limited basis during the week for the first time since early September – and with more reps with Cassel.
"I think everybody felt his energy and obviously he is a great competitor," Cassel said. "We'd love to get him more involved and we tried throughout the course of the game but unfortunately weren't able to do that much.
"Obviously he looked good. He had a good week of practice. It was good to have him back on the field. Again, I have to do a better job of getting him the ball and letting him do what he does best, which is make plays."
Cassel and the offense had trouble finding a rhythm in general. He completed only 13 of 25 passes for 97 yards with no touchdowns, and the Seahawks' man coverage often led to underneath throws.
Cassel targeted Bryant six times, with four falling incomplete, including a fly pattern toward the end zone from the 29-yard line in the third quarter. Bryant's first catch came on the next drive, a short throw to the right side with no room to run; Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who lined up against Bryant for much of the game, tackled him for a three-yard loss.
Bryant caught a 15-yard pass on a curl route two plays later.
"That was a good play for him," head coach Jason Garrett said.
"He played a number of snaps in the game and we had to be mindful of the fact that he hasn't practiced that much and hasn't played in a long time. So we kept our eye on him and tried to give him a couple of chances."
It's been a long wait for Bryant, who went through a diligent injury rehab with team athletic trainers and strength/conditioning staff over the last several weeks. He told reporters after the game that his foot felt good.
"I'm ready for next week too," he said.
The Cowboys certainly will need him in order to halt a five-game losing streak.