IRVING, Texas – The outcome had long been decided, but it was curious to see Dez Bryant on the sidelines for the Cowboys' final possession in Thurday's 33-14 loss to Carolina.
Dallas got the ball back with 1:41 to play, trailing by 19 points, and ran six plays before turning the ball over on downs. Perhaps the most telling part of the non-descript drive was that Bryant watched it from the bench, equipped with a stocking hat rather than a helmet.
With Tony Romo out for the rest of the season and Bryant coping with several injuries of his own, that sight prompted plenty of questions about whether the Cowboys should sit their star receiver for the rest of the year.
Asked about it on Friday morning, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said that won't be happening.
"He needs to practice. He needs to play," he said. "That's the best thing for Dez. ... We missed a lot with his contract negotiation in the spring and training camp. What Dez needs is repetition, practice repetitions, in-game repetitions, that'll make him a better player for the future."
It's been a trying season for Bryant, to say the least. After missing the Cowboys' offseason program due to a contract negotiation, he sustained a hamstring injury just a week into training camp and was held out until the start of the regular season.
Three quarters into the season opener, he was lost for six weeks with a broken metatarsal in his foot.
"He plays with pain. He's Superman with pain," Jones said. "To come back as quickly as he came back with his fractured foot, was just an example of it.
That's not even the end of Bryant's saga for this season. While making a spectacular touchdown catch during the Nov. 8 loss to Philadelphia, he tweaked both his knee and ankle and has been limited in practice ever since.
After the Cowboys' 24-14 win in Miami last week, Bryant addressed his own concerns with injuries before ultimately suiting up against the Dolphins.
"I'm not going to lie, at the beginning of the week, I was like 'Man, we're going to see how this thing feels, see how it rolls,'" he said.
Jones ruled Romo out for the remainder of the season, leaving Dallas without its starting quarterback and facing a five-game hole just to reach .500. Considering those fact, it's logical why some would call for Bryant to rest his own injuries in anticipation of 2016.
That won't be the case for Bryant, to hear it from Jones. Instead, he said he wants to focus on what he's missed so much of during this injury-riddled season – practice and repetition.
"You can have the greatest talent in the world, but if you don't practice it and hone it, then it's not going to be at the level that it can be," Jones said. "That's what's happening to Dez. He just missed a lot of time here this year and he's not at his complete apex of his A-game."