FRISCO, Texas – Dez Bryant's release remains a hot topic.
Days after the club announced it was parting ways with the veteran wideout, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and several team leaders weighed in on the roster move and the team's plans moving forward.
Here are some excerpts with the media prior to Tuesday's Albertsons Companies All Star Gala at The Star in Frisco, which benefited North Texas charities and honored Pat and Emmitt Smith with a Lifetime Achievement Award for their extraordinary community service.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett on Bryant's comments about the organization since his release:
"I love Dez Bryant. I love him. I love everything about him as a person and a player. I'm so appreciative of the opportunity to coach him. He's one of the great players ever to play in this franchise, and he's a special guy. It's certainly an emotional time. It's not an easy decision for us to make. He's been such a great player and a big part of our organization. But again, we made the decision in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We're going to move forward, Dez is going to move forward, and hopefully we'll have a lifelong relationship."
Jason Garrett on whether the Cowboys are better after releasing Bryant:
"Well again, there's a lot of factors that go into making a decision like this. We just feel like we like the competition that we have at the receiver position right now. We're excited about the couple new guys that we brought in. We'll have competition at that position and we'll go forward."
Jason Garrett on whether he has spoken to Bryant since the decision to release him:
"Yeah, I have spoken to Dez – a couple times. We had a good, honest discussion. Again, I wish him nothing but the best going forward. I don't want to get into the details of our conversation, but I appreciated the time that he took and how we talked through a lot of different things. He's a special guy, I love him to death. He's been really important to me, to our coaching staff, to his teammates and to this organization throughout his career here. It's not an easy time for him, it's not an easy decision for us. But again, we thought we were doing what was in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys and wish Dez nothing but the best going forward."
Cowboys TE Jason Witten's reaction to the news of Bryant's release:
"Friday was an emotional day for all of us. To see Dez's time here come to an end – one of the most prolific receivers in this franchise's history. I was fortunate to see it and live it every day in the way he played and the way he practiced. Personally, I took a lot of pride in seeing him come in as a young rookie and overcoming all the things he did and developing into one of the best, if not the best, wide receivers in football. So many great plays, so many great memories. So many days and evenings spent talking about routes and technique and the passion he showed. It was an emotional day for all of us, myself included, to see him. Fortunately, I've been around long enough that it's happened to a lot of friends of mine – Miles (Austin) and DeMarco (Murray) and DeMarcus (Ware) and Tony (Romo) and Doug Free and Marc Colombo. So many, on and on that I can go. I understand that it doesn't last forever. It'll happen to me, as well."
Jason Witten on Bryant's comments on NFL Network suggesting that Cowboys' team captains played a role in his departure from the team:
"I don't know what all that's about. I know, when you go through these processes, there's a lot of things that probably go into it. But I know I enjoyed my time with Dez, and I think that I appreciated everything that we did. I certainly invested a lot in him, and he helped me become a better player, too. I appreciate that time together. Being a captain is a huge honor for me and so many other guys, and I know what those guys' character is all about. There's really nothing there."
LB Sean Lee on what it meant to play alongside Bryant for eight seasons:
"Me and Dez came in together (in 2010). He's one of the best players I've ever played with, a guy that I fed off his passion … It's going to be really hard to replace."
Sean Lee on Bryant's comments on NFL Network suggesting team captains had a role in his release:
"All I know is that I loved playing with him. Like any type of breakup, it can be tough. But I know he's going to be dominant and go play the way he can be. We can't get into that. We've got to move forward, but he's a guy we love and that we're praying for and rooting for."
Sean Lee on what it would be like playing against Bryant:
"It would be torture to play against a guy like that who plays hard like he does, who makes all those plays. As a linebacker I always felt it was like tackling a running back, how hard he ran and how tough he was."
Center Travis Frederick on Bryant's release:
*"He was a good teammate to me and he's done so many great things in his career. We just wish him the best in what he's doing moving forward."*
Travis Frederick on the state of the Cowboys' locker room going into 2018:
"There's always been a great focus on the team, the team, the team, and it really is a good group of guys and we have a really strong group of leaders in there. I think guys really have bought into that and bought into what we're trying to do with improving in the offseason and improving moving forward."