SAN ANTONIO -- Dez Bryant wants to show that he's all business, and he almost made it through the first training-camp interview of the season without cracking a smile.
Then somebody asked him when he knew his leg was back to full strength.
"Probably about the end of June," he said.
Then the smile broke out.
"I was in my back yard playing basketball, feeling good. Dunking, windmilling, 360 -- doing everything," he said. "That's when I knew I was ready to go."
No one can blame him for feeling good about that. If the second-year Dallas Cowboys receiver winds up spending more time talking about his athleticism, and not his jewelry or pants or an injury, it will mean good things for him and the team.
"Before I stepped on the field, I put it all behind me," Bryant said of the personal issues that became news in the off-season -- the unpaid jewelry-store bills and the sagging-pants incident at a Dallas mall. "This is my workplace now. I felt like I had to take care of all that before I got here. What's not taken care of, it will be taken care of. I'm here, and while I'm here, this is the only thing I'm focusing on."
The Cowboys are counting on that. They have made him a starter, replacing the released Roy Williams.
The 22-year-old from Lufkin will be asked for much more than last season, when he caught 45 passes for 561 yards and six touchdowns before suffering a broken fibula on a kickoff return in Week 13.
"He did so many really good things at a young age without a lot of work," coach Jason Garrett said. "So he's a guy that we believe just can continue to grow and grow as a player."
Who knows what he can do with a full training camp? An ankle sprain a week into camp last year cost him the preseason.
Consider also that he didn't play as a senior at Oklahoma State, and he played only three games as a junior before he was suspended by the NCAA. Counting all of his pro and college action over the past three years, it's still only 15 games.
"The fact that Dez Bryant made such an impact last year gives me confidence," Garrett said.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is bound to be watching every move Bryant makes. It started with the conditioning test, when every player ran, was weighed and had their body fat measured.
"Dez did good in the conditioning test," Romo said. "He ran well. I think his future is bright. He'll continue to grow each rep that he takes."
Bryant believes he'll show more maturity in his second NFL season. Perhaps a sign of that is that he understands more will be expected of him now that he's a starter.
"I'm not going to look at it as a negative," he said. "I look at it as everybody wants me to do good. I have a big role, and it's my job to fill it and make everybody happy."
That would leave everybody smiling.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407