IRVING — Dez Bryant is hoping his third season becomes the norm.The Dallas Cowboys receiver, who struggled to stay healthy his first two seasons, was one of the league’s top receivers the final eight games of 2012. He has followed that up by being one of the team’s top performers this off-season.“I think by me doing everything and going out there with the knowledge I have, you can say I’m more comfortable and confident as I have ever been,” Bryant said. “I am just fired up about this upcoming year.”Bryant had 50 receptions for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in the second half of last season, scoring at least once in nine of the last 10 games. He said earlier this off-season that he is capable of a 2,500-yard season.“I know I just started playing football,” Bryant said. “I just started a long time ago just being Dez. I love this game. I felt like people needed to say that. I just went out there and gave it my all each and every play.”Bryant was Kyle Orton’s go-to receiver Wednesday during veteran minicamp with Miles Austin out. Orton targeted Bryant seven consecutive plays in the final team period. Bryant made a highlight-reel, one-handed catch in the end zone in the sequence, though officials ruled he was out of bounds.“He’s an exciting football player. There’s no question about that,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re really excited to have him on our team. The thing you love about Dez more than anything else is his passion for the game. He loves to play. He loves to go and get the football. Anybody that watches him practice each and every day or playing in games, you can see that. The big thing you have to do with him and all our players is keep the standard high.”Bryant is working hard on his release off the line. Garrett said Bryant had a bad release on a 50-yard touchdown catch in Tuesday’s practice, and Bryant himself noted that later.“I am trying to find new ways to come off the ball,” Bryant said. “I come off the ball. I just want more than one release. So that’s what I am working on.”Orton knows his roleKyle Orton has taken every first-team snap in off-season training activities and minicamp while Tony Romo recovers from surgery in April to remove a cyst from his back. Orton, though, knows his place.“I’m trying to make the most of it,” Orton said. The snaps “won’t be there in a month come camp, so I have to fall back on these.”Orton signed on with the Cowboys last off-season to serve as Romo’s backup. He had only 11 plays last season — mop-up duty against the Chicago Bears.It was the first time since 2006 that Orton didn’t start a game.Briefly• Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, Miles Austin and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff were given a rest day.• Cornerback Morris Claiborne (migraine) returned to practice after missing Tuesday.
Charean Williams 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean