IRVING, Texas – The practice fields at Valley Ranch seemed a little quieter and a little less energetic without Dez Bryant on Tuesday.
It's not exactly news that the Cowboys' franchise player wasn't on hand for Organized Team Activities. Bryant hasn't signed his $12.8 million franchise tender. He hasn't been present for the offseason program, and he wasn't on hand for the start of OTAs on Monday.
"He has been in and out at different times. Obviously, he's working on the business part of his contract, working through this franchise player tag," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We've been in communication with him. He's been in communication with his teammates. He seems to be in great shape whenever we've seen him."
It still felt surreal that Bryant wasn't on hand for the first practice session open to the media. The Cowboys' top wide out is always one of the more entertaining aspects on the field, and his locker is a must-stop spot for post-practice interviews.
Tony Romo put it succinctly when asked about Bryant's absence from the field for the next few weeks.
"Obviously, when you have him it makes things a little bit easier," he said. "Tell him to come on back."
Bryant doesn't have to sign his franchise tender until July 15, and it's unlikely he'll make an appearance in uniform before training camp opens in late July. Given his dynamic nature, Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley said he was confident Bryant was eager to return to the field.
"Dez is a competitor, and he not only loves to play but he loves to practice. He loves being out there with the team. I know he misses his teammates, I know he misses being here," Dooley said. "But that's just part of the deal, and I think everybody understands it."
Dooley was quick to point out the benefits of missing his top option for the spring practices – a better chance to evaluate his other receivers. Terrance Williams has been working as the Cowboys' top receiver with Bryant unavailable, and Devin Street made one of the best plays of Wednesday's practice with a diving effort on a deep ball.
"When you script practices, you're always scripting around your players. If Dez was here, we'd certainly put a lot of plays that are kind of designed to feature him a little bit," Dooley said. "With him not being here, somebody's got to take those plays. It allows us to be a little more creative with Terrance, and it allows us to see what Street can do."