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 off-season 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 this off-season. 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 defensive end Greg Hardy.
Jones said Wednesday that he is sympathetic to what Bryant is going through but is confident Bryant will suit up for the season opener 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.”
At the end of their last practice of the off-season, the Cowboys had a scare when trainers helped Terrance Williams off the field. But X-rays were negative on Williams’ left elbow, a source said.
Williams tweeted: “I’m not injury prone It takes a lot more..Im straight thanks.”
Williams went down awkwardly on the AT&T Stadium turf after tangling with rookie defensive back Byron Jones, who called it unfortunate. The receiver stayed on the ground briefly before leaving the stadium with trainers to head back to Valley Ranch for precautionary tests.
The Cowboys called the injury a bruised elbow, though he could have nerve irritation.
“You’re always worried,” Dooley said. “That’s the No. 1 thing you’re worried about, but you can’t coach worrying about injury, because the only way to be a good football player is go out there and play, and sometimes it’s physical, and there’s always risk involved. So hopefully he’ll be OK, and we’ll see him in five weeks.”
With Bryant a nonparticipant in the team’s off-season program while seeking a long-term contract, Williams has practiced as the team’s top receiver.
“He’s had a phenomenal four weeks,” Dooley said. “I told him, in fact before he went on the field, how proud I was of him.
“He’s not only taking a tremendous leadership role in the group, really setting the example of how you do things, but he’s expanded his route inventory. He’s played X; he’s play Z; he’s played in the slot. And every day he went out there and was the same player. Every route, every opportunity he had, he took advantage of it. He’s made a big jump this off-season.”
Williams has 81 receptions for 1,357 yards and 13 touchdowns in two seasons. He has never missed a game.
Ready for camp
Training camp is a little more than five weeks away for the Cowboys, and an extended break is always welcomed. But the players are just as eager to get out to Oxnard, Calif.
“I’m excited for where we’re at,” Witten said. “We’ve really taken the mentality that we have to be better, so I’m excited to get to training camp.”
So is linebacker Sean Lee and Byron Jones. Lee says he is 100 percent after missing last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, while it will be Jones’ first professional camp.
“I’ll be ready to go, 100 percent, ready to play football,” Lee said.
Drew Davison, 817-390-7760