ARLINGTON, Texas – Dez Bryant's still without a contract resolution, but he was a surprise spectator Thursday at the Cowboys' final minicamp practice at AT&T Stadium.
A week after reports surfaced that Bryant might consider sitting out the regular-season opener if he doesn't sign a long-term contract before the July 15 negotiating deadline – and a day after Bryant took to Twitter to reiterate his desire for long-term financial security – the All-Pro receiver rejoined his teammates to watch practice.
Before practice, Bryant was seen in the stands watching a video on the giant board with his teammates in a black T-shirt and shorts. He also spent a few minutes chatting with quarterback Tony Romo just before drills began, and roamed on and around the field during individual drills.
"Great to have him here," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said before practice. "Dez obviously hasn't signed his franchise deal yet, so he's not practicing. He's dropped in really throughout the offseason program. Dez is a special guy. He's obviously a heck of a football player, obviously very important to our football team.
"His approach is really well respected by anybody on our team, the guys he goes against. He's got a great passion for the game and it's great to have him here."
Thursday marks the Cowboys' final team workout before training camp in late July in Oxnard, Calif. Bryant has mostly worked out on his own during the voluntary offseason program and technically wasn't required to attend this week's minicamp because he's not under contract until he signs his one-year $12.8 million franchise tag tender or works out a long-term deal before July 15.
"Dez is preparing himself to play football and there's a business side of the NFL that's real," Garrett said. "It's real for our team. It's real for every team in this league. I know Dez. I know his mindset. I know his mentality. I know he's working hard and hopefully we can get the business stuff resolved and he'll get back to playing football."
This week, Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones reiterated the team's desire to re-sign Bryant long term but cited a wide financial gap in the league's current receiver market that has to be bridged. Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he fully expects Bryant to be "leading the way" when team opens the season Sept. 13 at home against the Giants – whether he's still under the franchise tag or not.
That remains to be seen. But Bryant's presence Thursday, though not in uniform, further thickens the plot.