FRISCO, Texas – Multiple times throughout this week, Dez Bryant joked with reporters about the oncoming questions. He knew what was coming, and he'd be ready to face it.
Thursday is when Bryant typically holds his weekly media session, and his predictions proved correct. Waiting at his locker were upward of 30 reporters and another dozen TV cameras, all of them with one topic on their mind.
"Hey, man, we're not going to talk about the catch," he said. "Nah, we not going to talk about the catch."
Of course, that was wishful thinking, and it has been wishful thinking for two years. Bryant talked to reporters for roughly 12 minutes, and he spent half of that time talking about The Catch – that fateful moment in the 2014 divisional playoffs at Lambeau Field, when Bryant's 30-yard catch on 4th-and-2 was overturned by officials.
The play would have set the Cowboys up on the Green Bay goal line with a chance to take the lead late in the game. Instead the Packers took over on downs and ran out the clock – and Bryant hasn't stopped hearing about it since.
"Still to this day. Before we even knew we were going to play the Packers," he said. "Still to this day they be like, 'It's January blah, blah, blah, 2017, 3:29 p.m. and I just want the world to know that Dez Bryant still caught it.'"
It's not an exaggeration to say the play is one of the most memorable moments in Cowboys history – and certainly of the recent past. It effectively ended one of the team's best seasons of the last 20 years, and – as Bryant pointed out – it's been a topic of conversation ever since.
But, as Bryant also pointed out on numerous occasions, bygone moments are not his concern during the buildup to another divisional playoff game.
[embeddedad0]"I don't even care. That was 2014," he said. "There's no extra motivation, there's no nothing. If there's any motivation it's just to prepare better than the last time. I feel like I've done that."
If you can move past the tired narrative, it's strange to think that the Cowboys have played the Packers twice since those 2014 playoffs. Thanks to a variety of injuries, Bryant didn't factor much in those matchups.
Playing on a bum foot with a sprained knee, Bryant was held to one catch for nine yards in last year's 28-7 loss at Lambeau. This season, his knee injury held him out of the Cowboys' 30-16 win.
It won't be the case this time around. The Cowboys head into the weekend at full strength, and they'll undoubtedly be relying on their All-Pro receiver to make a difference. Bryant has had his ups and downs in 2016, but he has scored five of his eight touchdowns in the last six weeks of the season.
"I believe if you didn't achieve what you set out to do, obviously you didn't work hard enough," he said. "I feel like we've been preparing good, so we've got a great shot Sunday."
Whatever happens this time around, Bryant will be part of it once again. If his last playoff experience teaches any kind of lesson, it's that nothing is guaranteed – which gives him all the more reason to make the most of it.
"It's a once in a lifetime moment, so you have to view it that way," he said. "You just have to prepare and you have to have your mind right and then just go play."