IRVING, Texas – He's not practicing, but Dez Bryant clearly has no intention of completely missing the Cowboys' Organized Team Activities.
Bryant is still in the middle of a contract negotiation and has yet to sign his franchise tender, but he told DallasCowboys.com he'd be in attendance Thursday when the Cowboys wrapped up their first week of OTAs.
That's not exactly a new development for the All-Pro receiver, who is coming off a franchise record-setting 16-touchdown season in 2014. Bryant and the club have been discussing a new contract as far back as last fall, and he hasn't been active in the voluntary offseason program.
Despite that, he has made regular appearances at the team's Valley Ranch facility this spring. He stopped by on draft weekend to personally meet with first-round pick Byron Jones, and he has shown up to visit during team workouts.
"He has been in and out at different times," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett on Wednesday. "Obviously, he's working on the business part of his contract, working through this franchise player tag. We've been in communication with him. He's been in communication with his teammates. He seems to be in great shape whenever we've seen him."
Bryant's presence on the field for offseason practices isn't overly surprising in that context – even if he's not donning a helmet or wearing pads. Asked about Bryant's absence on Wednesday, wide receivers coach Derek Dooley described it succinctly.
"Dez is a competitor, and he not only loves to play but he loves to practice. He loves being out there with the team," he said. "I know he misses his teammates, I know he misses being here. But that's just part of the deal, and I think everybody understands it."
It remains unclear if Bryant's continuing appearances mean much in the progress of a long-term deal. The Cowboys have until July 15 to sign their star wideout to a multi-year contract before he must sign his one-year, $12.8 million franchise tender. If the deadline passes with no deal, the two parties can't discuss a new deal until after the 2015 season.
There's no telling what kind of progress is made in the six weeks until then, but Bryant has made it clear that he has no intention of staying away in the meantime.