IRVING, Texas– Dez Bryant was bound to be a topic of conversation when the Cowboys opened minicamp, but his agent made it a virtual certainty.
In an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio on Tuesday morning, Tom Condon was asked whether he thought his client might follow through on last week's threats to sit out of regular season games this year.
"In my conversations with him, he's indicated that he's willing to do that," Condon told the station.
Bryant made waves last week when he said he'd consider sitting out of regular season games this fall if he isn't signed to a long-term contract by July 15. Those waves were bound to make their way into the Cowboys' facility, where the team underwent its first day of minicamp practices – once again without their star receiver.
"I miss having Dez around, but it's part of the business and he's got to do what's best for him and his family," said Orlando Scandrick. "I support him and that's my teammate, and I'm looking forward to when he comes back."
That's more or less been the consensus around the building all spring. Bryant has been absent for most of the offseason program, though he has appeared on several occasions to show his support for the team.
There doesn't seem to be any shortage of confidence that Bryant will be ready to pick up where he left off as last year's league leader in receiving touchdowns – it's just a matter of when that will be.
"I don't worry about him working out at all. However, you can do a million reps of this, run that – the only way to get in football shape is to play football – and he knows that," said wide receivers coach Derek Dooley. "If he came out there today and tried to go through two-minute drill without practicing, he would have a hard time getting through it. That's what training camp is for."[embeddedad0]
At this point in time, though, it's hard to say Bryant will be around when the Cowboys report to Oxnard, Calif., for camp. He and the Cowboys have until July 15 to sign a long-term contract, or he's locked into his one-year deal as the team's franchise player.
Or, as has been oft-discussed since the weekend, he could opt not to play at all, foregoing the $12.8 million contract in favor of negotiating next offseason. Condon acknowledged Tuesday that it would be a tough decision to make, but it's something worth considering.
"It's difficult for him to not be there. And would it be difficult for him to not be there for the regular season? Yes, absolutely," Condon said. "But nevertheless, he's maturing quickly and he's not the same guy he was five years ago when he started as a rookie in the NFL. He understands what his contribution has been and that he's at risk. His average per year in salary is probably 20 percent of what he would get on the open market. He understands the significance of this and what this means for the rest of his life."
It's a situation Scandrick might relate to – at least somewhat. The veteran corner missed several parts of the Cowboys' offseason program earlier this spring while he was seeking a contract extension, which he eventually got. He said he understood the need to separate the business side of the game from the personal.
"It is a job, and at the end of the day he's got a family and he's got to do what's best for him," he said. "If you respect him as a man and as a teammate, you've got to support your teammate through whatever he goes through. I talk to Dez periodically, and I support him through whatever he's going through."
In the meantime, the Cowboys will turn toward the last two practices of minicamp with their familiar "next man up" attitude. Dooley has spoken before about the silver lining of not having Dez, and the players have backed that up.
"We definitely miss his energy out there, but it's given a chance to the guys like Street and the younger cats to get their development going," said Barry Church.
Added Dooley: "When you get on the field you can't worry about who's not out there. These are our guys, and they are doing a great job. They're all elevating their play in some way. They're all getting to do things a little differently because of his absence."
Never was that more evident than the Cowboys' locker room on Tuesday afternoon, where both Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley commanded large crowds of reporters at their lockers. As the current No. 1 on the roster, Williams said he'll continue to hold himself at Bryant's standard – regardless of when he shows up.
"We play at a high level, and no matter if he's here or not we're going to continue doing that, he said. "But I think as a group we're all trying to put in pieces to complement each other for the stuff that Dez brought us. I think the stuff we're doing now, I think he'll be proud of us."