Dez Bryant eventually made his way to the Dallas Cowboys’ practice fields Thursday.
The star wide receiver showed up about 15 minutes into practice, and worked on the side with the training staff. He threw and caught passes in a relaxed mode in the brief time he was on the field when practice was still opened to the media.
In the end, he only did rehab stuff, as he did on Wednesday, and did not participate in practice.
Bryant’s status for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants remains unknown, but signs are suggesting he will not play.
While coach Jason Garrett has said he wants Bryant to participate in practice before returning to game action, he is not ruling him out.
“We’re not ruling anybody out,” Garrett said. “We take him day by day. We take him all the way to the game. Really what we’re doing is focusing on his work today and see how he handles it.”
Garrett said that Bryant has been able to cut and run during his rehab.
“There’s obviously degrees to that, how well are you running, how well are you cutting, how do you respond to that work,” Garrett said. “Not unlike the other injuries that you have, guys coming back off of these things all the time. And you kind of put them through different things to see how they handle it, see how functional they are and see if you can take them to the next step where they get involved in a competitive practice.”
Bryant, 26, has been sidelined since the season opener when he fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot. He had surgery, which included a bone graft, on Sept. 14.
The initial timeline for Bryant’s return had been six to eight weeks, and this Sunday is just shy of the six-week mark. So the Cowboys are walking a fine line to make sure they don’t rush Bryant back too soon.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said if the Cowboys gave him the go-ahead for Sunday that he would find a way to use him.
The Cowboys (2-3) head to New York for Sunday’s game against the Giants (3-3) riding a three-game losing streak.
They need to get a win to get back on track and keep their season and playoff hopes alive until quarterback Tony Romo’s scheduled return Nov. 22 from a fractured collarbone.
But tight end Jason Witten stops short of calling them a desperate football team.
“Yeah, we need to get a win,” Witten said. “I feel like you’re tricking me with the ‘desperate,’ but, yeah, we need to get a win.”
Well, desperate times lead to desperate measures.
The Cowboys are making three lineup changes on offense. Matt Cassel is replacing Brandon Weeden at quarterback, La’el Collins will replace Ron Leary at left guard and Christine Michael could get the start ahead of Joseph Randle at running back.
“We need to go win a football game,” Witten said. “It’s a division game. To get to 3-0 in the division would be big. There’s no question it’s an important game.”
Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli can’t say enough good things or have more respect for defensive end Greg Hardy and his approach to the game.
While Marinelli said he needs to get rookie defensive end Randy Gregory wired back in and up to speed after missing the past four games with a high ankle sprain, no such prompting was needed for Hardy. He had two sacks and five quarterback hits against New England two weeks ago in what was his first game in 14 months.
Marinelli is expecting more of the same from Hardy on Sunday because that’s what he is about. Hardy missed practice on Thursday with an illness, but it is not considered serious.
“I think the guy, Hardy, lives it every second of every day,” Marinelli said. “I know the guy is rushing when he’s leaving the building. It’s his work habits. They’re really good. It comes off the film that he works. I just look at him and there’s a guy that’s innate. He comes out every day in how he prepares and how he works. He lives the game. He lives it.”
Hardy’s football character and work habits often get lost when people talk about his off-the-field issues, namely the domestic violence incident in 2014 that cost him the first four games of the season because of an NFL suspension.
But those are things that prompted the Cowboys to take a chance on him in the face of all the criticism. They are also what makes him special, Marinelli said.
“Hopefully, it shows up on game day that he’s living it,” Marinelli said. “It’s hard to play like that without living it. You know what I’m saying? He’s a special guy.”