Dez Bryant held out this off-season while seeking a new contract. It ended up being a blessing in disguise as it prepared the Dallas Cowboys for the next few weeks without their star receiver.
“As it turned out, we can really benefit from that time [without Bryant in the off-season],” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “I think the other guys grew in his absence.
“Terrance Williams was in more of a lead receiver role. Some of the other guys got more reps than they would have gotten. Tony [Romo] got a lot of time on task with those guys throughout the off-season program. So you want all your players here each and every day, but when it’s not the case you have to make the best of it, and there will be some benefits from that time they spent together.”
Bryant underwent surgery Monday to repair the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. He fractured the bone on a crossing route that gained 5 yards early in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys’ bye week falls on Week 6, giving Bryant a chance to return for the Oct. 25 rematch with the New York Giants. He might need longer healing from the Jones fracture, which requires a screw put into the foot.
Bryant missed four games in 2010 after fracturing his right ankle on a kickoff return, and he missed one game in 2011 after injuring his thigh in the season opener.
You can’t really replace Dez Bryant. There aren’t Dez Bryants waiting out there on the street. He’s a special guy.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
But Bryant played every game the past three seasons — with a streak of 63 consecutive games played — while becoming one of the best receivers in the NFL.
“Dez is a really good football player,” Garrett said. “We all know that. Anyone who has followed our team, or really has followed the NFL, knows what kind of impact that he can have on a game. He’s been a big-play guy for us for a long time. His production on the field speaks for itself. He also has a really positive impact on our team because of how he plays. The spirit that he plays with, the energy, the passion, it’s really contagious. You miss all of those things.
“You can’t really replace Dez Bryant. There aren’t Dez Bryants waiting out there on the street. He’s a special guy. He’s a unique guy, and we’re going to miss him. Having said all that, the nature of this league, the next guy has to be available and everybody else has to rally around the cause, and we anticipate doing that. I thought our guys did a good job of that last night in the game, just kind of kept going, kept playing, and that’s what we’ll do going forward.”
63 Consecutive games played by Dez Bryant, a streak halted by a broken bone in his right foot
The Cowboys rallied for an improbable 27-26 victory over the Giants on Sunday night. After Bryant left for the locker room, Romo completed 12 of 14 passes for 154 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Only five of the completions went to wideouts, and a pass that bounced off the hands of receiver Devin Street resulted in the interception.
Tight end Jason Witten had five receptions for 46 yards and both touchdowns, while running back Lance Dunbar had two catches for 40 yards.
“You just keep playing,” Garrett said. “There will be a receiver who plays in the place of Dez Bryant. You use different personnel groups, and you just go play football. That’s what we did last night during the game, and that’s what you do week in and week out.
“Sometimes you have everybody available and you try to take full advantage of that; other times you don’t. ... The guys on our football team have a responsibility to be accountable and be ready to go. We saw some of that last night, and we expect that going forward.”
After Dez Bryant left for the locker room Sunday, Tony Romo completed 12 of 14 passes for 154 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Bryant, 26, missed the off-season at Valley Ranch after the Cowboys placed the franchise tag on him. He finally got a new deal in July, signing a five-year, $70 million contract, but he strained his left hamstring in an Aug. 6 practice and missed much of training camp and all of the preseason.
The team’s other wideouts, particularly Williams and Street, benefited from Bryant’s absence. Street, who had only two receptions last season as a rookie, likely will draw his first career start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys also will have to make do without rookie defensive end Randy Gregory, whose high-ankle sprain will keep him out four weeks. Gregory played 19 defensive snaps, making a quarterback hit, before departing.
“He was actually pretty productive,” Garrett said. “He ... had a number of factors in the game, disrupted in the run game and also rushing the quarterback. He was around the quarterback a lot. He did a good job of affecting him, and I thought he had a really positive impact on the game.”
Dallas’ win over the New York Giants benefited produced some interesting statistics. Here are some:
▪ Improved their season-opening record to 37-18-1
▪ Improved their home season-opening record to 17-8-1
▪ Extended opening-day record against the Giants to 8-0
▪ Gave team a league-best 27th win on Sunday Night Football