Dez Bryant appeared in the locker room Saturday to meet the rookies. He even played catch on the side during their minicamp.
Though he hasn’t been fully cleared for the Cowboys’ offseason program, Bryant is looking more and more like the Dez of old.
“He’s done a really good job with his rehab, and he’s made progress,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Like with all those guys, it’s a day-by-day, week-by-week thing. But he’s had no setbacks, and he really continues to get better and better.”
Cowboys receivers coach Derek Dooley anticipates Bryant a full participant by June 1. The team’s minicamp is June 16-18.
Bryant played only nine games last season, none completely healthy. He ended the season on injured reserve and required more surgery in the offseason.
“The biggest thing with him is the starting point is conditioning,” Dooley said. “It doesn’t matter how good you might be, if you’re not in physical condition to run routes and to get people off you, it’s going to be hard. So we almost, with Dez, have got to go back to square one, go back to the fundamentals.
“It’s almost as if he’s had a year off. Develop our skill sets as a wideout, but at the same time, get back into a level of conditioning to allow yourself to apply those skills 65, 70 snaps in a game. That’s not going to happen in nine OTAs. It’s going to be OTAs. It’s going to be him really pushing himself this summer without us around and then having a great training camp. I feel like if we can get through those three phases, he’ll be ready to go.”
Bryant had a lost season in 2015 after missing the offseason in a contract holdout and then injuring his hamstring in an early training camp practice.
In the season opener, Bryant fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in the season opener. He required the first surgery on his foot, which kept him out five games.
“It crushed him,” Dooley said of Bryant missing the offseason last year. “If you think about it, I felt like he only had one game where he was himself. That was the Eagles game, and then he got hurt [again] that game.
“He came into training camp without the offseason, so he wasn’t as polished his first six practices, and then he pulls a hamstring. It’s not coincidental when your body is not used to those football movements. I don’t care how many things you can do in a weight room and by yourself, it’s not the same. Then he doesn’t really practice again until the first game. We kind of made sure he didn’t get hurt, and then he gets hurt the first game. So then he comes back and his first week was a hard week. You’ve got to get back into it. It was Seattle. And then that next week, he starts looking like himself again, and he had the big game against Philly, and he got hurt. He hurt his knee and his ankle. So then he goes six more weeks and doesn’t even practice during the week. It’s just impossible to play at the level you need to play at, especially with the expectation he has on himself, without being able to practice. He knows that more than anybody. I think it’s been good for him to recognize how quickly this game can be taken from you, but also how quickly you can let go of this game if you don’t continue to hone in on your skills.”
Bryant made the All-Pro team as one of the league’s top-two receivers in 2014, catching 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns.