. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has no interest in talking about his past anymore.
And while it might be a little unrealistic, it’s a fair position for him to take.
“This whole off-season, I think I killed that already,” Bryant said. “That’s a nonfactor. I’m not trying to sound rude, but that question was a little bit irrelevant. I think there’s no backwards for me.”
Bryant has worked hard to clean up his image since resolving the misdemeanor family violence charge of a year ago. He has taken ownership and definitely matured.
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In light of the murder investigation involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, it’s clear that it wasn’t Bryant who was the major bad-boy security risk of the 2010 draft.
Bryant’s biggest crimes at the time were a dysfunctional upbringing, being tardy to team meetings in college and ruled ineligible as a junior at Oklahoma State for lying to the NCAA investigators about a dinner with former Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders.
Four years later, it all seems so innocuous and pedestrian.
After a breakout 2012 season in which caught 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns and an off-season in which he has established himself as one of the Cowboys best players, no one is looking back when it comes to Bryant.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett once dreaded talking about Bryant’s off-the-field issues. Now that Bryant has his life and priorities in order, Garrett said Bryant’s potential is limitless.
“He’s only scratched the surface,” said Garrett, who called Bryant “a joy to coach” and a player he has “immense respect” for in two separate interviews this week. “When I say that, it doesn’t mean he’s going to catch X number of more balls. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m just talking about playing better, playing at a higher level. His practice and his work ethic throughout the off-season was outstanding. He looks great. We’re excited to see him.”
No one is more excited about the coming season than Bryant. His work ethic was never in question. With his confidence and knowledge of the game at an all-time high, Bryant believes he is not only ready to take is place among the great receivers in the game but also become the best.
If that means surpassing Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Houston’s Andre Johnson or Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald, so be it.
“If you’re a wideout, that is supposed to be your mindset,” Bryant said. “You don’t want to be second. You don’t want to be third. You want to be the best. That is what I’m trying to do.”
Bryant certainly appears to be on that pace. His numbers in his first three years in the league — 200 catches for 2,871 yards and 27 touchdowns — compare favorably to both Johnson and Fitzgerald.
None had more combined touchdowns and only Fitzgerald put up better numbers in terms of catches and yards during his first three seasons than Bryant did last year. Fitzgerald had 102 catches, 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns his second year in 2006.
Bryant’s goals are a whopping 20 touchdowns and 2,000 yards receiving in 2013.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne has the pleasure of getting burned by Bryant every day in practice. He called him unstoppable and said anything is possible.
“Oh yeah, Dez is going to have that mentality that no one can stop him,” Claiborne said. “He’s just got that mentality that he’s a killer.”
Bryant, who recognizes the mistakes of his past even though he loathes to talk about them, strikes a balance between being humble and confident.
He readily admits part of his motivation going forward is to repay the people who stood by him in the past, including Garrett, quarterback Tony Romo and owner Jerry Jones.
“It means a lot. I give a lot of credit to them,” Bryant said. “They stuck their neck out for me and they stayed with me. The time when I didn’t understand certain things, they did their best to help me understand things. I feel like it’s my job to pay them back by going out and working hard.”