IRVING, Texas – Michael Irvin has "no doubt" Dez Bryant will have a bounce-back season in 2016.
Foot and ankle injuries cost Bryant seven games in 2015, the most in a single season in his five-year career, and consequently he posted career lows in catches (31), receiving yards (401) and touchdowns (3).
It was a frustrating season for the star receiver, but Irvin believes those challenges will help make Bryant stronger.
"I think last year was a great experience," the Hall of Fame receiver said last week while visiting the Cowboys' final minicamp practice at Valley Ranch. "Not on output and everything, but on levels of understanding what it takes and all of that, and Dez will tell you that himself. Not just from Dez's perspective, but from also the feeling and the atmosphere moving into a season. That's very important. And now everybody, I believe, is back on the track of feeling like something can happen here."
There is indeed renewed optimism coming off a highly disappointing 4-12 season in which Bryant played in only nine games and quarterback Tony Romo made only two complete starts due to a twice-fractured collarbone. Both are returning healthy.
Last offseason, Bryant had to deal with an altered training regimen during prolonged contract extension talks that kept him away from Valley Ranch during the voluntary program. He signed his $70 million deal in July, reported for training camp, dealt with a hamstring injury throughout much of preseason, then broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in Week 1 against the Giants.
Irvin dealt with an injury-shortened season early in his remarkable career. In 1989, Irvin's second year, he tore his ACL and missed the team's final 10 games. He returned in the middle of the 1990 season and would help lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowls in the '90s.[embeddedad0]
"It's (about) mentality and he has to make sure he's feeling real good about himself," Irvin said of Bryant. "He has his quarterback back there. He'll be fine. I know he's looking for a great year with all of those things going into the season.
"That'll be the difference. Knowing it's structurally good, you'll be good. Knowing you're strong enough to do certain things, you'll be good. Getting yourself to say you're free enough to do all things is the key. You've got to feel that."