IRVING, Texas – Thought that was him, but like 15 yards or so away, in the weight room, shirtless, back turned, that unmistakable V forming from his broad shoulders down to his enviable waist.
About 3½ hours later, as I was walking to my car here at The Ranch, I hear from the car parked on the side of the drive leading to the players' parking lot, "Hey Mickey!"
Yep, it was him, and didn't need Dez Bryant to stick his head out the window, smiling. Indeed it was him.
"I knew you couldn't stay away," I said, laughing, as he did, too.
We shook hands. Had a nice conversation, just me and him. It was as if he was relieved to be back home, with his adopted family, or maybe his family, probably the most people who have been closest to him for the past five years over his entire life.
First of all, saw when word leaked out Dez was in the house that folks started putting two and two together again and came up with a signed contract. Nope, not at all, and sure didn't seem like much of anything with the negotiations had changed.
What changed, though, is what I always thought would, and another sign of just how much Dez Bryant is committed to this team, committed to this organization.
"I wanted to be here for my teammates," Dez began telling me.
Of course he did, and also to fill his need to be with his teammates. Dez realizes at some point this contractual stalemate will end, that the two sides will compromise on a long-term deal, making each quite happy, or he will play for his current $12.83 million franchise tender, which will appease each but not exactly make either side rejoice since these franchised players want their signing bonus and guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal – and the team wants to spread all that over, say, five years, creating a far less expensive salary cap hit at the start.
Either way, even if he and his reps make the Cowboys sweat or the Cowboys make him sweat, he's going to be playing football this 2015 season. He knows that, and as former franchised defensive end Anthony Spencer once said, "I can't be mad at making $10 million." He might have added "guaranteed $10 million."
So Dez was here on Thursday for the second time since the impasse began over the contract, that first time during the draft. As I figured, he was here, and says will continue from here on out to be at The Ranch for his strength and conditioning work. But that, for now, sounds like it. No on-field work with the receivers and QBs, and if he remains unsigned until closer to the July 15 deadline for agreeing to long-term deals with franchised players, then likely no participation in the "voluntary" OTAs that begin on May 26, nor the veteran mandatory minicamp for players under contract scheduled for June 16-18. That's his right, and really only negotiating chip at this point.
As for training camp, who knows. That's not until the final week in July, veritable light years away when it comes to these very touchy financial issues. Although as my late former colleague Frank Luksa reasoned about these player/team contract disputes, he'd compare them to a frightened cat stuck high up in a tree, and he'd tell me, "Did you ever hear of a cat dying in a tree?"
Nope, they always come down, even if the fire department had to help, right?
Same as players, they all eventually sign. Now they might be committed to the cause, but few ever miss a paycheck, and for Dez, even if he must play for the guaranteed $12.83 million franchise tag, that factors out to $754,705 a week. A reasonable man would not turn his nose up on that, which would add up to more money after 17 weeks then he's made in five years.
Now it's not as if Dez hasn't been working out on his own. He assured me during the draft he was, and says he has been working out on his own, save that week he went out to LA. His shirtless workout at The Ranch on Thursday proved this to be "more likely than not."
But in Dez' mind, he wants his teammates to know he's doing as much as he can to be ready when it's time to go, time to win games, and as he said, he didn't want to do anything to disrupt the harmony in the locker room.
"In the past two years that locker room has changed," Dez said, and he means for the better. "There is something special in there."
Plus, he also knows there are some young guys he can properly influence on how to work as they enter the league. How about that? The guy everyone was worried about for the better part of his first two or three years now considering himself one of the team leaders, a guy who can impart some work-ethic wisdom on, well, say a Randy Gregory, who in Dez' estimation is a pretty sharp guy.
Also, while he was there on Thursday, Dez stuck his head into the head coach's office to have a conversation with Jason Garrett. He said he talked with owner Jerry Jones, too, not so much about contract as assuring both he's not trying to be a rebel, not trying to be disruptive but that his somewhat withholding services is just business.
He's wanting them to know he can be trusted, and what he's doing or not doing during this protracted contract episode is his own decision, not a directive of anyone else influencing him, including his agent. He says he's doing what he thinks is right.
In fact, he offered something that I didn't know about him and his family life: That his brother has been the biggest influence and confidant in his life.
Brother? I didn't know you had a brother, older or younger?
Older, by three years, his brother Shaun, says Dez, "been with me the whole way," meaning the two have been together through all the thick and thin growing up in Lufkin, moving from here to there, home to home.
The other biggest influence, he says, arrived with the birth of his daughter Isabella on Dec. 5 of last year, the responsibility of a little girl making a huge impression on him.
Evidently Shaun pointed out the positives of Dez working with his teammates, just being there, creating that invaluable interaction in the weight room with teammates. And as we all know, we all, and I mean all, work out harder and have more fun doing so when training with others. We work harder when there is someone in charge, like strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik, barking out instructions, pushing . . . pushing buttons, too, instead of someone saying what we want to hear.
Good for Dez. He seemed happy, at ease, not worried or bitter. Maybe that came with conducting his workout at The Ranch with The Guys this day. Helps more than it hurts, right? Keeps him connected and no way should be construed as a sign of negotiating weakness, as if he's about to cave. He's not. Just wants everyone to know he's doing what he can in a game a man once said of the NFL, "great game, bad business," to be a good teammate.
And that seems to mean a lot to him.