Gil LeBreton

Dez’s return will help, but is Cowboys’ damage done?

Dez Bryant’s return will surely boost the Cowboys, but is the season already lost?
Dez Bryant’s return will surely boost the Cowboys, but is the season already lost? Star-Telegram

Since he practiced last week, there seems little that is truly questionable about Dez Bryant’s availability Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

And none too soon, of course. Bryant’s absence had all but silenced the Dallas Cowboys’ downfield passing game.

As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on his weekly KIRO radio show, “We think he’s playing. And that’s good for them and hard on us.

“We respect him a lot, and we know he’s a big factor for their team.”

Carroll and his staff, in other words, had to spend a portion of their week game-planning for Bryant. Do you think the Patriots, Giants or any of the other defenses over the past five games wasted any time worrying about Terrance Williams or Cole Beasley?

Dez, however, has to be accounted for, even if the quarterback does on occasion throw to the wrong-colored jersey.

“He’s a fantastic football player,” Carroll told Don Monson. “And he’s a very emotional leader on their team, too. They’ll get a boost from him being back out there.”

How much of a boost remains to be seen. A little of Dez, even when he’s just “cheering up” Greg Hardy, can go a long way, you may have noticed.

And while it’s unlikely that fill-in Matt Cassel has the same kind of mind-meld rapport with Bryant that Tony Romo has, the Seahawks have to concede that the new quarterback will at least try.

If the losses to the Falcons, Saints and Patriots taught the Cowboys anything, it’s that Cassel’s gunslinger flair is better than no flair at all.

Is Bryant healthy? My cousin the orthopedic specialist says there is no way to know that, not until Bryant’s foot absorbs the impact from a crashing defensive back. The outside of the foot, where Dez’s fracture occurred, is vulnerable.

The clock is ticking, however. On the season. On Romo — 35 years old and only two playoff wins in his career. And on Owner Jones, who just turned 73.

This was supposed to be their season, the Cowboys’ return to the Super Bowl. They were a Bryant “non-football move” away from advancing a year ago. Jones sold his soul (see Hardy, Greg) to fill in the missing parts.

But here was coach Jason Garrett last week, talking to the media about his fill-in quarterback having to fight to keep his confidence after last Sunday’s giveaway to the Giants.

“This game is about adversity and your ability to come back from adversity,” Garrett said. “You need to be mentally tough to do that. You don’t play as long in this league as [Cassel] has if you don’t have that.

“Obviously, you want to eliminate the negative plays, but sometimes they happen. It’s your response to that that shows everybody what you are all about.

“I think we got a good feel for what he is all about going forward.”

Yep. Don’t throw anything at the TV, Garrett means.

It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys’ latest running back configuration — Darren McFadden starting, Christine Michael off the bench, Joseph Randle mysteriously missing — being the difference in defeating the Seahawks.

Cassel, 40 passes? Wince.

As desperate as the Cowboys are, two-time defending NFC champion Seattle has to be at DEFCON 2 with its 3-4 record.

Expect Dez to play, therefore, and get plenty of Seahawks attention. Expect Cassel to throw deep to him, no matter what.

Expect Romo to return to action for the Miami game Nov. 22.

And what will the Cowboys’ season look like at that point?

Questionable. Tick … tick … tick.

Gil LeBreton: 817-390-7697,, @gilebreton

Seahawks at Cowboys

3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4

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