OXNARD, Calif. – It's a tradition that's six years in the making.
Dez Bryant lines up across from a defensive back – any defensive back – at Cowboys training camp, and he wins. Sometimes he wins easily, sometimes it takes a spectacular degree of athleticism, but either way, he typically wins.
That helps explain the crowd's excited reaction Tuesday when Bryant squared off with Byron Jones in one-on-one competition. The All-Pro and the first-round pick tore off down the field on a go route, jostling all the way.
As much as Bryant's size advantage makes him one of the best red zone targets in the NFL, it did no good against Jones. The rookie corner fought him off and batted the ball downfield for an incompletion.
"I'd say a lot of it comes from my coach, Coach Jerome Henderson. He preaches toughness and fight and competitive nastiness, and not letting receivers get their way with you," Jones said. "For me, it's just trying to fight as much as I can going down the field, using my strength and using my body."
The famously competitive Bryant came up from the ground with no helmet, visibly frustrated that he was beaten, and congratulated his younger teammate.
"He had my right arm," Bryant said. "I practice on my left and my right, I had my eyes glued to the ball. He just made an outstanding play. He ripped it out. I had to congratulate him because I sure was trying to bring it in."
Jones likely doesn't even have time to feel good about the play, considering the amount of work the coaching staff has him doing. He does work with both the corners and the safeties, and when the Cowboys square off in full-team practice, he's working at dime back, squaring off against the offense's tight ends.
"I like it. I feel like they're trying to challenge me," he said. "They're trying to say 'Hey Byron, go out there. Let's see what you've got – let's see what you've got at dime, let's see what you've got at safety and at corner. I think it's a great challenge every day."[embeddedad0]
The age-old adage about defensive backs is that the position requires a short memory after a bad play. The same thing can be said for good plays, however, and Jones was sure to point that out.
"You want to ride that wave when you make a good play, but you've got to understand you've got a completely different play – sometimes against a completely different player – and you've got to make another play," he said. "It's just about locking in and trying to focus on your job."