OXNARD, Calif. – One mercurial Cowboys receiver took the field for practice, and another one watched from the sideline.
That was the scene Thursday at the final practice of training camp, where former Cowboys All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens visited the team for the first time since his release in March of 2009. Among the several veterans the former Pro Bowler visited with was the Cowboys' current Pro Bowl receiver Dez Bryant.
There might not be a person with a better perspective on Bryant than Owens, who was a perennial magnet for scrutiny both on and off the field during his illustrious career. Asked if Bryant reminded him of himself, Owens agreed.
"From the standpoint of, obviously a guy that's just very passionate about the game, a lot of what he does can be misconstrued, misinterpreted," he said. "I think his head, mentally, is in the right place."
Bryant was a hot topic of conversation after two separate onfield incidents last season. His animated sideline antics during the dying seconds of the loss to Detroit, and his early exit from the playing field after the Cowboys surrendered a 23-point lead to Green Bay became national talking points.
Those go along with multiple off-field incidents during the early years of Bryant's career, but Owens said he appears to be moving past that.
"He's going to go through those growing pains, as I'm sure the organization has already realized," he said. "But that's part of growing up – that's part of a maturation process that he will live and learn from."
Photos from the Cowboys last final practice in Oxnard.
It's been several years since off-field problems took center stage for Bryant. As for sideline outbursts, he has long attributed that to his passionate approach for the game and something he doesn't plan to change. He said as recently as last week that he's not worried about similar outbursts in the future.
"I know how to handle myself. I'm learning how to channel that in a more positive way," he said. "I know exactly what I'm doing when I'm out here on the field."
Though he's been away from the team for roughly five years now, Owens seemed to agree.
"Dez has obviously realized the opportunity he has in front of him and to really make the most of the opportunity. Because you never know when your last play or your last game is going to be," he said. "I think he's starting to get it and he has the right people in his corner to really guide him and pave the way for him."