Dez Bryant showed up for the Dallas Cowboys’ final minicamp practice on Thursday at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys star receiver has been sitting out most of the team’s offseason activities in hopes of getting a long-term extension with the team. Bryant watched a pre-practice video with the team in the stands, and then spent practice in street clothes on the sideline playing catch.
He had a lengthy conversation with owner Jerry Jones, as well, although neither Bryant nor Jones met with reporters. But Bryant’s presence pleased the coaching staff and players.
“It’s great to have him here,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Dez is a special guy. He’s obviously a heck of a football player. He’s very important to our football team. His approach is really well respected by anyone on our team. He’s got a great passion for the game and it’s great to have him here.”
Added tight end Jason Witten: “I definitely know he’s itching to get out there and I trust that it will all work out.”
By showing up, Bryant likely did himself no favors in his negotiating tactic of possibly skipping regular-season games. If he can’t stay away from the team during minicamp, is he really going to miss regular-season games and forfeit more than $750,000 for every week he misses?
But that’s the only leverage Bryant has at this point after the Cowboys slapped him with the franchise tag earlier this offseason. Bryant will make $12.8 million for the 2015 season, assuming he signs the tender at some point, but is seeking a longer team deal with more financial security.
By sitting out games, Bryant would hope that it would force the Cowboys to put a clause in the contract that prohibits them from using the franchise tag a second time next year. The Cowboys set that kind of precedent, too, when they offered a similar luxury to Greg Hardy.
Jones said Wednesday that he is sympathetic to what Bryant is going through, but is confident Bryant will be suiting up for the team when they open the season Sept. 13 against the Giants.
“We just know how competitive Dez is and how much he wants to beat the Giants and how much he wants to support his teammates,” Jones said.
His appearance Thursday proved that further, and everyone seemed happy to see him.
“He just brings a level of energy that’s just positive,” wide receivers coach Derek Dooley said. “It’s a great spirit. He just really exudes that kind of confidence, that swagger and he’s always a treat to be around. He never gets old, to me. He doesn’t. It’s always good to see him.
“I wish everybody knew Dez the way I knew him, because he’s got such a genuine heart. He’s got such a commitment to the players in that locker room, to the team. I’ve seen it for 33 Sundays. I’ve seen it every day when he’s here and it’s not Sunday. I’m just looking forward to getting him back and I know he’s looking forward to getting back. We’ve just got to iron through some of the business part.”
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760