Check out a snapshot of this Dez Bryant as opposed to that Dez Bryant a mere one summer ago:
It was a late Tuesday afternoon this week in the Cowboys’ training camp, and a scrimmage session had turned very feisty, even physical, or at least physical by this era’s NFL watered-down emphasis on contact in drills.
Tight end Jason Witten went up for a pass, and was hammered in midair by newcomer safety Will Allen. Witten came down hard on his back, and he stayed down. No movement at all.
Talk about a sudden hush. Fans went totally quiet, the entire team went totally silent, with not a one “atta boy” heard from fellow defensive players for Allen’s good play and strong hit.
Allen, himself, dropped to a knee, hovering over Witten with a “you all right? you all right, man?” heard.
Teammates rushed over. But no one rushed faster than Dez. He was at Witten’s side in a blink. He even beat the team athletic trainers by 5 yards.
This Dez? Total team guy. Total teammate. Totally committed to doing right, on the field and off. It’s been an interesting transformation that began at some point last season, continued strongly in the off-season, and has carried over to this camp.
Landing on his back, Witten had the air knocked out of him. He took a minute to breathe again, then was up and in there for the next play. Crisis canceled.
But Dez’s reaction and concern for Witten was noted.
A summer ago, Bryant was a troubled player with a troubled past. And now there’s this Dez.
“I sleep easier at night these days,” said one Cowboys staffer Wednesday, “because the phone calls about another Dez episode have stopped.
“We are pleased. But we also let the process play out. So far, very good. We think this is for real. But no one is saying never again. We just hope it’s never again.”
Until this week, Dez’s news these days was about what level is next for him on the field. The talent level is obviously immense. His confidence level is obviously immense. And the production level that began in the second half of last season leads to great expectations for this season.
And the credit goes to …
Jerry Jones is mentioned. That’s legit. Tony Romo, the way he has embraced Dez not only as a receiver but as a friend, is mentioned. That’s legit. David Wells of Dallas, Dez’s adviser and father figure, is mentioned. That’s legit. Even Michael Jordan, who hired Dez as one of his shoe and apparel endorsers, and personally phoned Bryant for a lifestyle pep talk, is mentioned. That’s legit.
“But you know what,” added the same Cowboys staffer, “the most credit goes to Dez himself. Dez has changed because he wanted to change. He wanted to become an adult instead of a wayward kid.
“Dez will be 25 this season. It was time to be an adult. But as we know, growing up in this league is never taken for granted. We’ve had guys in their 30s still acting like kids.”
Amen to that.
At the moment, I’ve got Dez labeled as the best story on the team. As I learned Sunday out here, he doesn’t want to talk to me about it. He told a Cowboys staffer I was on his no-speak list because of negative comments in this newspaper and the radio show in the past.
Dez is right on this. I’ve had negative comments in the past, after screaming support for the Cowboys to take a chance and draft Bryant in 2010.
But I’m also a Dez cheerleader in another area. In fact, Dez made national headlines Wednesday for comments he made on this topic on Tuesday afternoon.
Yes, it’s the Johnny Football story. I’m also firmly convinced Dez got screwed in 2009 when the NCAA ended his junior season at Oklahoma State for lying about a meeting with one Deion Sanders.
I wanted on Sunday to hear Dez’s opinions on Mr. Manziel’s problems, particularly as it pertained to what the NCAA might or might not do.
On Tuesday, Dez talked to two reporters out here on that topic. One of those reporters was our own Charean Williams.
See, I think Dez has a strong lawsuit against the NCAA.
Sure, Bryant’s comments about Johnny Football were kind of a contradiction. No, he absolutely doesn’t want Manziel suspended. Yes, he absolutely will be hissed off if Manziel is not suspended.
A future lawsuit? Dez sidestepped that question.
Wells, who has been a visitor in Oxnard this week, is not sidestepping it.
“Sure, we are watching what happens to Johnny Football, and so are our legal representatives,” Wells said. “We are also watching what the NCAA does about that North Carolina basketball player [P.J. Hairston] who has some serious explaining to do about a car he’s driving.”
Wells will tell you he already has a legal “scorecard” in play.
There are 25 names on that list of college football and basketball players (including Cam Newton) who, since Dez was suspended, have committed (Wells’ opinion) much more serious violations than Bryant, yet the sanctions coming from the NCAA were not nearly as harsh.
“We watch, and we file it away, name by name,” said Wells.
The lawsuit, should there be one, will be based on how much NFL Draft money the NCAA cost Bryant when it took him down three games into the 2009 Oklahoma State schedule.
I love this possible — I said possible — Dez Bryant daily double:
NFL stardom combined with winning a lawsuit while also exposing the hypocrisy of the NCAA.
That’s this Dez.
Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.