FRISCO, Texas – For the vast majority of a frustrating season, Dez Bryant has been seen and not heard.
Through the highs and lows of a tumultuous season, the Cowboys' mercurial receiver has kept a low profile, as he has largely refrained from social media and hasn't done much in the way of interviews.
On Wednesday, in the wake of arguably the most frustrating game of the season, Bryant made up for lost time. Given the amount of scrutiny he's faced since the Cowboys' 21-12 loss to Seattle on Christmas Eve, it wasn't surprising that Bryant had a lot to say, speaking to reporters for roughly 16 minutes.
In that time span, Bryant covered roughly every topic imaginable – from his disappointing output, to his health, to his much-discussed contract situation. It has all combined to create what Bryant admitted has been a tough season.
"I let a lot of things get in the way that bother me mentally," Bryant said. "I feel like, if anything, I need to deal with in the offseason – is that. Like I said, there's only certain things I can control."
Bryant has focused on that idea a lot recently – the idea of focusing only on what's in his control. He didn't get into specifics on Wednesday, but he made it clear that outside factors crept in and affected his on-field performance during the course of this season.
"I know if my mind's not cluttered I can beat whoever and whenever, anybody at any time," he said. "It's just, sometimes I let certain things get to me that I shouldn't."
Those problems manifested themselves clearly in Sunday's loss to Seattle. In the early going of a game the Cowboys were controlling, Bryant could be seen voicing his frustrations with coaches and teammates on the sideline. Not long after, he was stripped by Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell on his first reception of the game, leading to a Seattle recovery and an eventual touchdown.
Later on, with the Cowboys trailing, 14-12, in the third quarter, a pass from Dak Prescott caromed off his hands and into the arms of Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright, effectively killing a scoring opportunity.
"That's me. That's all me," he said. "That's a play I should've made."
To say the backlash has been intense would be an understatement – and again, Bryant's decision to address the media on Wednesday hardly seems like a coincidence.
There has been speculation throughout the season about what has contributed to Bryant's decline in production. Through 15 games, he's sitting on just 66 catches for 815 yards. His average of 12.3 yards per reception is the worst of his career, and his touchdown total of six is the worst of any season in which he hasn't missed games due to injury.
Having said that, Bryant disputed the idea that he has been healthy in 2017, as he said he's been fighting through injury issues since October.
"I've been dealing with my tendonitis, and I'm shocked that none of you guys didn't know anything about that. I have, I've been dealing with injuries," Bryant said. "I'm a warrior, I consider myself a warrior. If I can walk, I can move, I'm going to go out there and try to play. It's probably dumb. But hey, that's just who I am. I love this game and I try to push it. But for the most part, yeah – I have been pretty banged up."
That might be the case, but it's probably not enough to quell the outside speculation about Bryant's job status. The tree-time Pro Bowler is about to enter the fourth year of his $70 million contract, in which he's scheduled to make $12.5 million and count $16.5 million against the salary cap.
Bryant is familiar with the business side of football, and he said he's not offended by questions about his contract. With all of that said, he bristled at the notion that he take a pay cut – as has been suggested by many.
"I haven't heard no talks about that, but if it comes – well, I don't know. Probably not," he said. "Hell no, man. I believe in me."
That line of questioning goes back Bryant's frustration, and the problems he admitted affected his play this season. In the middle of a disappointing season, it seems the outside noise at times was too much to bear.
"For me, that's the most frustrating part -- they don't know what goes on in-house," Bryant said. "You got a lot of people just yapping at the mouth like they just know. They don't know how we run things over here."
To that end, at least Bryant had a chance to speak his piece. But, after one last game in Philadelphia, the noise only figures to continue into the offseason. During what figures to be a long wait for another opportunity, Bryant reiterated that mantra for the future – control what he can control.
"I'm going to enjoy it," he said. "I'm going to get my body checked out. I'm going to make sure I'm right in all angles. I'm looking forward. I've got my mind on 2018."