IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant's wild day returning punts could have ended much worse than it did.
Head coach Jason Garrett must weigh the benefits and risks of sending out Bryant to field punts. The gifted athlete can return a punt for a touchdown at any moment, but he can also make a play like he did Sunday, catching the ball over his head in Dallas territory and holding the ball out to his side on the return.
"For a guy like that, you keep wanting to give him opportunities, but he's got to make sure he secures it better," Garrett said. "Ultimately, I think we all were relieved when he was tackled and we still had the ball. That's how you have to look at that. It's a great learning opportunity for him because it's obvious on the tape that he was overly aggressive."
Garrett's presented a tricky situation, balancing Bryant's capabilities in the return game against his tendency to go too far trying to make a play happen.
"That's something that we've talked to him about," Garrett said. "He's such a dynamic player, you want to give him chances, both on offense and as a punt returner. But at the same time, ball security is line one as a returner. He was aggressive catching that thing over his head, and maybe worse than that was holding the ball as loosely as he held it once he had the ball in his hands."
Bryant finished with three returns for 17 yards and one fair catch, though his day was more adventurous than those numbers would indicate.
He was called for a personal foul penalty after his first punt return of the day, following a three-and-out on the Panthers' first drive. He was later shaken up on a return while fighting for extra yardage, forcing him out for the subsequent offensive series.
Garrett said he shows Bryant's videos of his returns, preaching to him at practice about the necessity of securing the football.
"We've all been around a lot of really elite players who can make a lot of plays, and you never want to take that ability away from them," Garrett said. "You want to give them opportunities to do that, because they can make difference-making plays in the game that other guys can't make, so you want them to be aggressive that way. But at the same time, you have to understand the balance."