OXNARD, Calif. – It's a bit unusual to see Dez Bryant on this side of the story.
In a week in which the Cowboys' character is a chief concern, there was Bryant – lounging against the fence along the team's practice fields, taking reporters' questions about off-the-field behavior.
The difference was that Bryant wasn't answering questions about his own transgressions, but someone else's – Ezekiel Elliott, in this particular case.
"You know, I had an older guy tell me once: 'You'll get it over time,'" Bryant said. "That's for any young guy that's having any type of situation – you'll get it over time. I'm the first to raise my hand."
Bryant isn't wrong about that. There might not be a better-equipped member of the Cowboys' roster to comment on maturation than the All-Pro receiver, who has been through plenty of his own off-field storylines.
Now entering his eighth season, Bryant sounded like a sage veteran imparting the wisdom he's learned during his career. And that information wasn't directed at Ezekiel Elliott in particular, but any player coping with the spotlight of the NFL.
Asked more directly about his younger teammate, though, Bryant gave a vote of confidence to Elliott. He also insisted that the star running back has a strong support system within the organization.
"I believe Zeke is going to be fine. I'm not even worrying about Zeke, man. Because that guys loves football, man," Bryant said. "I understand it's more than football, but time will tell. He's got a great supporting cast and he can't lose with guys like us around him."
Again, it's interesting to see Bryant take on the role of mentor, given his own history with off-field behavior. From the time he was a first-round draft pick in 2010, he has never been too far removed from controversy. But with the exception of a few minor hiccups, such as last season's missed MRI, the three-time Pro Bowler has seen his life calm considerably the longer he's been in the league.
"Man, I'll tell you this – I wish I had a couple years back, I would say that," he said. "This opportunity is everything, because it's a short window. You want to make the most out of it, because you will look back."
To be clear, Elliott isn't currently facing any concrete discipline for any specific incident. The NFL's yearlong investigation into allegations of domestic violence is ongoing. But Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was adamant this past weekend that there was nothing to those allegations.
Still, though, Bryant's message is one the Cowboys would probably like their young running back to hear, as he has been embroiled in several controversies during his short time in the league.
For his part, Bryant was sure not to cast stones in anyone's direction – and advised others to follow suit.
"I'm pretty sure everybody here that's got a camera in my face has been through certain situations and has skeletons in their closet," he said. "We all have our issues. So I wouldn't dare bash a man. So like I said, time will tell. That's all I can say."
That's been a continuing trend for the Cowboys and for Elliott – time will tell. The organization has been waiting for word on the league's investigation since last summer, and it's entirely unclear if the Cowboys should expect some sort of discipline, for one reason or another.
However much that might linger in the outside world, Bryant said it's not something he or his teammates – including Elliott – is worried about.
"In that locker room, man, ain't no guys talking about him. Nobody doing none of that," he said. "We laughing, we joking, we having a good time. Everybody's spirits are high. That's how we want to keep it, that's how we're going to keep it. There's bigger things we're focusing on."