ARLINGTON -- Considering his dysfunctional upbringing, combustible Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant likely never had the traditional family Thanksgiving Day that so many people enjoy and take for granted.
His mother, Angela, gave birth to him when she was 14 and because she spent time in prison for selling crack cocaine, he bounced around among relatives while growing up in Lufkin.
That is not even considering the occupation of his then here-today, gone-tomorrow dad, who is nearly 30 years older than his mother and who Bryant himself said was a "pimp."
Add in the events of last July -- when Bryant was charged with misdemeanor family violence because of an incident with his mother -- and no one would have figured that family and responsibility would be at the top of the list of things he would hold most dear today as the Washington Redskins come to Cowboys Stadium in the Cowboys' annual Thanksgiving Day game.
But on this holiday of appreciation, reflection and thankfulness for family, friends and loved ones, Bryant wants it known that his family is fine and stronger than it's ever been.
"Let me tell you something, my relationship with my mom is great," Bryant said one week after charges of misdemeanor family violence against him were resolved in a conditional dismissal by the Dallas County district attorney's office.
"Even after the fact, it's great," Bryant continued. "I don't want to get into it too much, but when it happened, in our eyes, it was overblown. I love my mom. My mom loves me. Every thing is great between us."
Everything is also great with Bryant and the Cowboys of late. He is playing the best football of his career, catching 15 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns during the Cowboys' two-game winning streak heading into today's NFC East matchup with the Redskins.
His breakout performances couldn't have come at a better time because of the team's injured and shoddy offensive line and its ineffective running game. The Cowboys might have to ride him and quarterback Tony Romo offensively if they hope to continue their surge and make a playoff run.
"It's me being Dez, being focused and playing the game I love and doing all the things you need to do to be successful," said Bryant, who has 57 catches for 735 yards and four touchdowns.
Considering his issues with consistency and responsibility on and off the field since coming to Dallas as a controversial first-round pick in 2010, the big question on Bryant for the Cowboys is, can he be trusted?
The Cowboys like what they are seeing, but they are not ready to turn their back on the past.
"In general, I feel that Dez is maturing everywhere," owner Jerry Jones said. "Now, that's not to say that he won't go out there and run the wrong route. We don't want him running the wrong route off the field.
"The point is, without trying to be cute, Dez is improving. But the risk is here that he's on the field in the glaring spotlight for the Cowboys and off the field for the Cowboys. So I'm reluctant -- we all are -- to say, 'Boy, Dez is doing good.' Dez is doing better."
Bryant said he can be trusted. He said he is finally ready to take control of his life so his two sons, Zayne, 5, and Dez Jr., 2, won't have to face the same pitfalls that he did.
Jones said the team will continue to coach Bryant "hard" because he can handle it and needs it.
Although Bryant said he is growing up and maturing, he also appreciates a firm hand because it shows people around him care.
Bryant said he is now able to enjoy life the right way because of the structure the Cowboys, his adviser David Wells, attorney Royce West and agent Eugene Parker are giving him. That includes anger management counseling -- which was in place before it was required in last week's deal with the district attorney -- and a full-time security team.
"I don't want to make excuses. But people are brought up differently, see different things, been in different things, having two parents, having no parents," Bryant said. "It's different. I just feel like it's been a learning process for me my whole life and I'm just getting to it."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.