IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant opened up the final day of Cowboys' OTAs by shaking off his coverage, breaking to his right and turning an off-target pass into a beautiful, one-handed snag.
It was the type of circus catch that has become the norm for Bryant, and he followed it up by jogging off the practice fields and into the Cowboys' weight room to continue rehab on his mending foot.
"Coach be teasing me with that stuff, man," Bryant said Thursday afternoon. "He's bringing me out there just for a little bit. But it feels good to be out there, especially going through those drills."
That's been the routine for Bryant throughout these three weeks of OTAs. He's healthy enough to take part in walkthroughs and other activities. At times the medical staff has even allowed him to participate in individual drills.
Five months removed from surgery on his broken foot, though, the Cowboys aren't interested in letting their All-Pro receiver exert himself too much during the offseason program. Bryant had an encouraging X-Ray on the foot last week, but he said he understands how the process works.
"I've been cleared, but you know how it goes," he said. "We're all just very cautious, just trying to get right. We've got a long way before the season starts. We're just trying to get right."
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett wasn't eager to use the word "cautious," opting instead for "deliberate." As he has repeated at various times during the offseason program, the coaching staff has a set plan for every one of its injury concerns. That plan seems to be working fine for Bryant to this point.
"Anybody who's coming off an injury we just got to make sure we're deliberate in bringing them back," Garrett said. "Dez did some individual work yesterday. He was really good his first day back. We backed him off of that today."
Bryant has maintained this limited regimen throughout the nine OTA practices. With Wednesday's workload finished, that leaves three more practices – next week's mandatory minicamp – before the team breaks for the summer. If Bryant isn't active during the minicamp, his next opportunity for full-team reps will come later this summer at training camp.
Garrett reserves the right to change the gameplan, but he said he doesn't foresee that workload changing next week.
"We'll have a similar schedule for him next week," he said. "We'll bump him up if we feel like we want to, but we don't anticipate him practicing fully at all in the minicamp but hopefully he will get some productive work in."
With his health seeming to be a non-issue, Bryant's practice workload is the last obstacle left on his path back to the playing field in 2016. It's been well-documented, but Bryant's contract dispute kept him from participating in the offseason program last year.
When he did return to the team for training camp, injuries limited him throughout the summer. And obviously his foot and ankle injuries limited him throughout the 2015 season.
To that end, receivers coach Derek Dooley said Bryant needs snaps if he's going to regain his form from previous years. Between their various absences, Dooley made the astute point that Bryant has had a limited amount of time to work with Tony Romo during the past year and a half.[embeddedad0]
"He needs to work. He needs to get out here and play receiver," Dooley said. "You can probably almost count on your fingers how many days he's had with Tony Romo since literally the Green Bay game of a year and a half ago."
Both players will have their opportunity soon enough, as training camp looms in just 50 days. In the meantime, Bryant – typically known for his passionate personality – said he's willing to wait.
"We're excited but patient at the same time," he said. "I honestly think we're preparing the right way."
Go behind the lens and check out some of our favorite shots from day nine of OTAs at Valley Ranch.