IRVING -- Receiver Dez Bryant said only one thing would have prevented him from playing Sunday: If the Dallas Cowboys were eliminated from the playoff race, Bryant said he would have had surgery on his fractured left index finger this week.
"The position that we are in is what makes me want to be out there," Bryant said Friday. "If there was anything less than what we've got a chance of, I would have went ahead and got surgery."
Bryant, who was limited in practice Thursday and Friday after sitting out Wednesday, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he leaves no doubt that he is playing, pain or not.
"We still have a lot of different things we have to get over before we get him ready to play in this ballgame, but his mindset is to play in the game," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Friday. "We're excited about that."
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Bryant sought two medical opinions before deciding to forgo surgery until after the season.
Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said the team wouldn't do anything to compromise Bryant's career, although he concedes the receiver's broken finger might never be the same.
"It'll be a challenge with the flexibility of the finger, probably, for the rest of his life," Jones said Friday morning on KRLD/105.3 FM. "I think he'll still be able to use it and use it in a way that he'll be successful on the field and use it every day, as well."
Bryant said he would have lost flexibility no matter what.
He had athletic tape wrapped around the finger in the locker room after practice. He would not address how much pain he expects to be in or how the training staff will protect the finger Sunday. Bryant said he does not know if he will need a pain-killing injection before the game.
"Can't think about it," Bryant said when asked how he'd deal with the pain. "I'm telling you, it's a mental thing. Mental plays a big part of it with injuries. If you start believing you can't do it, you can't do it. If you believe you can do it, you can do it. And I feel like it plays a factor."
Bryant played three quarters of a game with a stretched ligament in his knee as a sophomore at Oklahoma State.
"I know what I can handle and I know what I can't," he said.
Bryant caught two passes after fracturing the finger Sunday, including a 27-yard touchdown on a laser-like pass from Tony Romo. Bryant was hurt, he said, when Bengals cornerback Adam Jones grabbed Bryant's finger on a 6-yard slant pass.
"I don't know for sure," Bryant said. "I'm thinking that is how it happened. My hand never touched the ground and my hand didn't hit his helmet."
Bryant, 24, has 33 receptions for 525 yards and seven touchdowns the past five games. He has his first 1,000-yard season with 75 catches for 1,028 yards and nine touchdowns.
This is the first season, in Bryant's three seasons, that he has played every game. He missed the final four games of his rookie season with a broken right fibula, and last year, he sat out a Week 2 victory over San Francisco with a thigh contusion that slowed him for much of the season.
"The only thing I got nervous about is when I heard the possibility I might go on IR. That was it," Bryant said. "...I just wanted to weigh my options, and that's what happened. That's what I did. I wanted to see how it felt if I get it padded."