IRVING, Texas – I've said it time and time again. Dez Bryant is not a bad guy. In numerous conversations with him and in observing his interactions with others for over two years, I've seen nothing in his personality that would lead me to believe he has hate in his heart.
But he is the most immature player to have come through the Valley Ranch locker room since I've been here. And by immature, I don't mean he thinks bathroom jokes are funny, or he spends all day watching SpongeBob. He's more engaging and intelligent than some others players I've covered.
I'm no behavioral psychologist, but it would seem Bryant simply isn't always able to calm himself and react logically when confronted with adverse personal situations – sometimes just the word "no." It's a social skill most of us pick up with age. But Bryant has many of the same wild emotional swings that a parent would expect from an angsty pre-teen, and what we know about his upbringing would make it hard for anyone to expect him to have developed far beyond that.
The allegations made against Bryant by his mother are obviously alarming and unacceptable, so don't misconstrue this as excuse-making, because it's not. There's no way to know just yet what drove Bryant to "accost" his own mother, whether he felt somehow threatened himself or whether she initiated the physical confrontation. We still don't have all the facts about what happened Saturday afternoon, and we probably never will get the whole truth.
One way or the other, though, this sort of trouble is exactly what the Cowboys signed up for when they drafted him in the first round in 2010. It's the reason he slipped out of the top five picks, all the way down to No. 24 overall. Their scouting report on him was dead-on perfect.
They knew and we knew what they were getting themselves into. The thousands of people who ran out to buy No. 88 jerseys knew it. So no one should be pretending to be in shock following this arrest, his first, just like no one should have been surprised when he got into a verbal squabble at a nightclub, or that he talked back to some plain-clothes officers at a mall, when he and/or his friends were sagging. None of us should have trouble believing that he isn't totally prepared to handle millions of dollars.
When the Cowboys drafted Bryant, they did so with the knowledge that they were going to be responsible for continuing to raise him. And just like a parent wouldn't and shouldn't give up on an unruly teen, the Cowboys won't kick this 23-year-old man-child to the curb. The people he needs to hear from will talk to him a lot. They'll probably put him through whatever anger management program or counseling that they can. They'll do everything short of spanking him.
At some point, though, the Cowboys and the rest of us will expect Bryant to have grown up. That'll probably be when this rookie contract nears its end, and the team has a decision to make.
The Cowboys should give him until then to prove he can handle himself like an adult. You can bet there will be some doubt.
I imagine it will be a very difficult choice to make.