Mac Engel

Dallas Cowboys need Dez Bryant, the character and the player

Dez Bryant said he has channeled the emotion that in the past has landed him in trouble, but no one should either believe him or want that. I want Dez Bryant just a little bit crazy.

“You know, it’s all about having yourself under control. That is exactly what has been going on with me,” he said. “Not using up too much wasted juice. I think if I can contain a little bit of that, I can be more effective.”

On behalf of all Cowboys fans, and media covering the team, thank God for Dez Bryant. The offense is not the same without him, and all of North Texas is a little more boring when he’s not playing.

I asked him if his coaches trust him now to control those emotions that have led to fights in practice, losing his temper in the locker room and some other incidents off the field that are drama mama stuff — neither smart nor criminal.

“I don’t think it’s ever really been an issue,” he said. “I think you are making it an issue by asking that stupid question. It’s been a part of my game — emotional guy that loves the game.”

It’s disarmingly delusional to think it was not an issue, but who cares? Dez is a little noisy and volume never hurt anybody.

As often as Cowboys coach Jason Garrett tries to drench his players in vanilla to strip this team of any personality, Bryant shakes too hard for any dulling agent to work.

Dez won’t be working for NASA or a think tank when his NFL career is over, but there exists a genuine rawness to him that is alarming, charming and ultimately endearing.

“You want to be passionate and engaged and maintain a cool demeanor and know when to dive in and when not to,” Garrett said. “We never want to take away Dez Bryant’s passion as a person or a player.”

Take away? No. Occasionally douse? Yes.

After playing in only nine games last season because of a broken foot, Dez is healthy for his seventh NFL season and there is no one else in our town who moves us more. He is your slightly crazy relative who expresses his heart in every word.

The return of cornerback Orlando Scandrick from his torn ACL gives the Cowboys an edge they lacked last season, but not having a healthy Dez took away their bravado and their guts.

Whether he is throwing up the X or jawing with teammates or opponents, he has been willing to fight since he came into the league. That’s what makes him so captivating — he does things, and is comfortable in a confrontation, in a way that we wish we could be.

To do what he does requires a certain level of bonkers.

By now, we should accept that what drives us nuts about Dez is the same quality that we love. It’s what makes him special, and the most popular athlete in town.

There is no malice in his bones, and he is not some calculating mind, like … say, Terrell Owens. Dez is Dez, and there is no filter. It may not come out clean, but it’s never mean.

We all love Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is as honest as a person can be, but he does not break the needle like Dez.

Tony Romo is a Pro Bowl quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, so his popularity will always be high, but he is plain, and his disdain for attention, other than when it benefits him, knocks him down the list.

Jason Witten is Jason Witten, which is more than enough. The last Ranger to connect with the fans was Josh Hamilton in his prime, and the only member of the Dallas Stars to reach a wider audience remains Mike Modano.

We are living in a Dez town, because he is good and unafraid to be himself.

How many other football players are going to receive a “shout out” from the National Spelling Bee champ? After winning the Spelling Bee title in the spring, 11-year-old Nihar Janga “threw up the X” as a tip to Dez.

“We have a lot of passionate guys, but he is super, super passionate and he ain’t afraid to show it,” receiver Cole Beasley said. “He definitely cares. He cares more than anybody I’ve ever met — that’s saying a lot. There are a lot of guys who care, but you can tell it hurts him and you gotta love a guy like that.”

In our generation of prepared statements and overcoached athletes who have a master’s degree in Boring, Dez is a throwback to an era of jocks who were OK in their own skin and were unafraid to show how much they felt, and cared.

Dez is a throwback to the Cowboys’ personalities of old. Guys such as Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Drew Pearson, Butch Johnson, Tony Hill, Randy White, Charlie Waters, Don Meredith, Hollywood Henderson and Charles Haley.

Those Cowboys teams needed those players, and their temperaments.

These Cowboys need Dez Bryant, the player, and everything that comes with Dez Bryant, the character.

The Cowboys, their offense or this town aren’t the same without him.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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