Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant said a lot during a wide-ranging, emotional-filled interview on the Ben and Skin Radio Show on 105.3 The Fan last Friday.
He talked about not wanting to leave the Cowboys and not yet being asked to take a pay cut, despite his declining production not matching his $12.5 base salary for next season.
He also talked about working hard to get his mind and body right this off-season so he could return to his dominant form of past years.
But one of the more interesting things Bryant said was regarding any advice he would give young players about playing hurt.
Bryant blames his drop in numbers on injuries and taking the field when he wasn’t 100 percent.
He said he won’t do it again and would tell young players not to as well.
“I've been grinding," Bryant said. "I've been on that field hurt. I got scars. I got bruises on me just because [of] how much I love the game and how much I want to see the Dallas Cowboys win.
"I want these people to understand that. From Mondays to Sundays it's a real grind. On Mondays, there's times where you feel like you can't even play on Sundays. That's real. You got to get your mind right. You got to get that body right to go out here and do that. I feel like a lot of these fans forget that. It's real out here. Ain't nothing phony out here.
“I'd tell [younger players] to get their body right. I would tell them that that's a mistake that I made. I'd tell them to get their body right. Keep it healthy, that should be the No. 1 goal. Sometimes you got to make those sacrifices. It's hard. You want to be out there on that field. You want to make plays. You want to be out there with your teammates. But you can't compromise your body. That's what I'd tell them."
Bryant has certainly dealt with a lot of injuries since signing a five-year, $75-million contract extension before the 2015 season.
In the three seasons since, Bryant has failed to reach the 1,000-yard receiving mark and has not had double-digit touchdowns.
Last season Bryant led the Cowboys in receptions (69), receiving yards (838) and touchdown catches (6), but also ranked among the league leaders with 12 dropped passes.
Injuries are part of the story for Bryant as he suffered a fractured foot in 2015, causing him to finish the season on injured reserve and undergo off-season surgery.
In 2016, he missed three games with a fractured bone in his knee.
And while he didn’t miss any games in 2017, he battled through an ankle injury and knee tendinitis.
What’s also true is that injuries are part of the game and everybody plays at less than full-strength, especially late in the season.
By all accounts, the Cowboys did not put Bryant through any additional risks by playing him in 2017. He rarely missed practice and was not a frequent member of the weekly injury report.
Was he supposed to tap out because his body was not feeling right? Is that what he is advising young players to do?
That doesn’t seem realistic and it certainly goes against the nature of the game.
Bryant believes playing hurt affected his production and hence is part of the reason he’s facing the criticism from fans and has him as a potential salary cap casualty.
But the truth is that the NFL is a production-oriented business, first and foremost.
No one cares if a player is hurt or playing through things.
It’s part of the game.
Bryant got the big-money before the 2015 season because he produced as well as any receiver in the league from 2012-2014 when he averaged roughly 91 catches, 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns during the greatest three-year stretch by a receiver in franchise history.
Per vice president Stephen Jones, the Cowboys are now questioning Bryant’s future with the team because he hasn’t played up to the contract or come close to those numbers since.
"No one wants to compete and get after it more than Dez," Jones said. "At the same time, we all know this is a business where everybody has to be accountable. Certainly, everybody knows that. That's a tough one. Certainly, we're going to be grinding it out and trying to determine what is in the best interest of our business.
"Dez understands this is a business. No one thinks more of Dez Bryant than starting at the top, Jerry, and certainly me, his teammates, coach [Jason] Garrett, Will McClay. We all have a tremendous amount of respect for Dez. That's one of the things that we're going to have to work through as we move into our future."
And Jones knows all the injuries Bryant has dealt with as well as how the change at quarterback from the retired Tony Romo to Dak Prescott has affected his game. Prescott, heading into his third year, is not as accurate or as trusting as Romo was in throwing to a covered Bryant. A number of passes dropped by Bryant also had Prescott skittish.
You really think if Bryant had sat out some games because he wasn’t feeling his best it would have made a difference in Jones’ bottom-line outlook on the situation?
It likely would have hastened Bryant's departure.
The Cowboys have yet to make a final decision.
But a message of not wanting to play hurt doesn't help Bryant.
Not when you're trying to keep a big-money contract.
And certainly not when the team has set up shop at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis possibly seeking a replacement.