Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant opened Thursday’s media briefing saying he had no interest in talking about the controversial catch that wasn’t from the 2014 NFC Divisional playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers.
It has been the Cowboys’ weeklong talking point in advance of Sunday’s playoff matchup against the Packers.
That play has no bearing on this week’s game. That play is in the past.
“Hey, man, we’re not going to talk about the catch,” Bryant said. “Nah, we’re not going to talk about the catch. Yeah, of course, it was tough. It was heartbreaking. It ended our season.”
Not surprisingly, roughly 30 minutes later, Bryant was still talking about the catch that wasn’t to the media scrum in the locker room.
It’s not that Bryant is still consumed by the play — though he emphatically believes he caught the ball — or is overly determined to make amends.
“No. I don’t even care,” Bryant said. “That was 2014. There’s no extra motivation. There’s no nothing. If there’s any motivation it’s just to prepare better than the last time. I feel like I’ve done that.”
But as much as Bryant has tried to move on, no one will let him. Not the media and definitely not the fans.
It’s all he hears about no matter where he goes, via social media or in person.
Dallas. Los Angeles. New York. His hometown of Lufkin.
From celebrities to the average man on the street to Cowboys fans at stadiums around the NFL.
“Everywhere I go, I still hear it until this day, ‘It was a catch. It was a catch,’ ” Bryant said. “Still to this day they be like, ‘It’s January blah, blah, blah, 2017, 3:29 p.m. and I just want the world to know that Dez Bryant still caught it.’ It’s funny.”
So funny that Bryant immediately went to his Twitter account after the Packers defeated the New York Giants in the wild-card playoffs last Sunday to set up the upcoming rematch.
“When the world found out we were playing the Packers, I instantly went to my Twitter just because,” Bryant said. “I knew what was going to happen. People were telling me it was their worst moment and how they felt. I don’t care. But I don’t know how it wasn’t a catch.”
No one really knows.
That remains a difficult question for the Cowboys and the NFL alike, no matter how much they have tried to clarify the rule. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said he’s asked all the time if he had a better definition of what a catch is two years later.
The Cowboys try to coach their receivers on controlling the ball as they go to the ground, but there is not much else they can do.
“Those happen. We’re conscious of it. Talk about it more,” Linehan said. “But, shoot, that was one of the greatest plays that wasn’t. But that’s the game. There’s going to be judgment calls that go your way or don’t go your way. Unfortunately for us, it didn’t. It’s not a focus for us. It just seems to be a hot-button.”
It’s hot button for Cowboys fans and Bryant fanatics because they believe it robbed the Cowboys of a victory and opportunity to go to the Super Bowl.
If you recall, it was fourth-and-2 with 4:43 remaining. The Cowboys were trailing 26-21 and quarterback Tony Romo lofted a pass to Bryant down the left sideline. He jumped over cornerback Sam Shields to grab the ball with two hands. He moved the ball to his left hand, took two steps and reached for the end zone with his left hand. The ball bounced up as hit the ground at the 1.
It was initially ruled a catch, giving the Cowboys a first-and-goal at the 1 and a chance for a seemingly walk-in go-ahead touchdown. But it was reversed on replay, snatching a possible victory and potential Super Bowl destiny away from the Cowboys.
Bryant has not changed his game. His focus remains on his preparation.
He is motivated to have his best game against the Packers on Sunday because of what it would mean to the Cowboys and possibly change his playoff legacy.
For as much as he gets a kick out of fans continuing to say, ‘Dez caught it,’ it comes with the negative connotation of a lost opportunity for the Cowboys.
For him, it’s the reverse of the famed Hail Mary catch by Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson in the 1975 playoffs against the Minnesota Vikings.
Tight end Jason Witten said the play doesn’t define Bryant, but it does speak to how important and fragile every play is in the playoffs.
“What a play by him,” Witten said. “What’s a catch? What’s not a catch? I just don’t think any one moment like that can define any of us. Certainly we all reflect on it and look back on it. It probably hardened us some. Know what? Nobody cares. We’re two years later.
“But it’s a great example of just the margin at this point and this time of the season.”
The latter is all Bryant cares about.
Bryant wants his playoff legacy to be known for more than the catch that wasn’t, but he is not dwelling on it.
But he also knows there is nothing he can do that will make Cowboys fans let go of the non-catch. It’s one of those things that has taken on a life of its own and will be forever remembered.
He knows even if he wins four Super Bowls, some people will say “the Cowboys should have won five” because “Dez caught it.”
Now that’s a spin on the controversy he would love to discuss one day.
He can take the first step Sunday against the Packers.