A great catch isn’t what signals Dez Bryant’s return to form. That will come.
The Dallas Cowboys receiver remains at least a week from being fully cleared for organized team activities.
For now, Bryant’s “re-grand opening” sign comes in his demeanor in the locker room. His presence makes Valley Ranch louder and more energetic, the NBA debate coming across the room with cornerback Orlando Scandrick as other players join in.
“I feel real good,” Bryant said Wednesday in his first locker room interview since ending the 2015 season on injured reserve. “Excited to be back playing football. There’s not a better feeling right now.”
Bryant earned recognition as one of the best receivers in the game when he caught 88 passes for 1,320 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014. He wants to be even better this year after losing last season to injuries.
“Man, I’m not even trying to [get back] to 2014. I’m past that,” Bryant said. “I’m going to be better than that. I’m going to. The way we’ve been working, the way the coaches have been on us, the way we’ve been holding each other accountable, I think that alone is going to make us all be better than what we were in these past years.”
Bryant, 27, continues to rehab from off-season surgery on his right ankle and right foot. He participates in the team’s walk-throughs and can do individual work.
But during team drills, Bryant does rehab work.
Receivers coach Derek Dooley recently said he expects Bryant fully cleared by June 1.
“Have to go in and get another X-ray, see how it looks,” Bryant said. “I feel fine. I’ve been working out real good. I’m getting back to my old self. I feel like I am on track. I’m excited. I’m just ready for these results next week.”
Bryant already is ahead of where he was in 2015. A year ago, he missed the entire off-season in a contract holdout. Bryant then injured his left hamstring early in training camp.
He returned for the season opener and fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot, requiring surgery. Bryant played only nine games last season, none completely healthy.
“He is very engaged, working through all the walk-throughs,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “That is huge. We don’t have him like we did two years ago, but he is here. Last year, he was in the contract situation [and not participating in the off-season program]. We understand that is the business part of the game. But having him here engaged and around his teammates, leading those receivers, is huge for us.”
The Cowboys will continue to be cautious with Bryant, even though he admits he’s champing at the bit to get back on the field.
“I’m trying my best to remain patient, because we have a long way to go,” Bryant said. “I’m just going to remain that way and just wait until they let me back on the field.”