Dez Bryant is my favorite football player. As crazy as that sounds, I became instantly hooked to his style of play when I first saw him in college playing for Oklahoma State. Bryant entered the 2010 NFL Draft with a variety of red flags raised due to the incidents he had in college. For the most part, the concerns centered around his work ethic. He was late for meetings, practices, and allegedly, some actual games. His background also raised some concerns, and his mother was known for having trouble with drug abuse.
While there was no question about Dez being a top-10 talent, the off-the-field stuff led to him dropping all the way to 24th overall pick until the Cowboys came forward. The Cowboys' front office did their homework on Bryant, and Jerry Jones was in love with his talent.
Since the Cowboys made the decision to trade up for Bryant, there were going to be the doubters who paid close attention to Dez Bryant. A lot of these doubters are standing up right now and saying I told you so. Whenever Dez messes up, they are waiting to point their fingers and say how right they were about the troubled wide receiver.
The Cowboys are one of the most controversial teams in all of sports. Due to their history and large fan base, everything that they do is magnified by the media. This is a team that has exactly one playoff win this decade, but they manage to stay on top of the media circuit every single year.
Bryant was having a great offseason, and he was preparing to have that "breakout" season we see from wide receivers entering their third year, but everything has changed overnight. By now we all know the story, but the details are still coming in. Some fans are asking for Bryant to be released, that the Cowboys simply cut their ties now, but that would be a mistake.
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Bryant is being represented legally by Royce West, and his lawyer did release a statement to NFL.com writer Ian Rapoport.
"Dez does not want this to be a distraction for the Cowboys," West told Rapoport. "Whatever the issues are that are involved, he's going to get them dealt with. And needless to say, he's going to be cooperative with law enforcement to get those resolved. The fact of the matter is, he has never ever been arrested for anything involving these types of allegations at all. And so, obviously it comes as a shock having to be fingerprinted, but reality is is that he's going to work his way through this and be prepared for the season."
We will continue to receive more information throughout the next few days, and hopefully we can get a clearer picture of what actually happened. But for Bryant, this is another off-the-field issue that he just did not need, especially after he has done such a great job preparing himself for the 2012 season.
One of the major concerns with Dez was his approach towards the game. He needed to gain more endurance and stamina, but he also needed to grow as a football player. The timing is just awful because the Cowboys have done a good job of staying out of the news in a negative light this offseason. It's disappointing to say this, but pretty much everything that Dez did positively this offseason is going to get thrown out the window.
Whether he was right or wrong, innocent or guilty, Dez has a shattered image, and he will be perceived by the world as a bad kid who always manages to find trouble. That may not be the truth, he may just be a 23 year old man who is genuinely a good person, but the public will begin to perceive him as a troublemaker who isn't worth the baggage he brings to an NFL team.
Dan Graziano writes about the NFC East for ESPN.com, and he is a very good writer who maintains a neutral stance in his articles, well that is my opinion of him anyway. In his latest article, he suggests that the Cowboys stand by their man and support him through this situation.
We know he has huge talent, which is why someone who makes the bad choices Bryant has made gets the brilliant chance he's been given. We know he's important to the Cowboys as a wide receiver, this year and beyond, and that in order to have the success they believe he can have, he must stop being the off-field headache he's been since they drafted him. But we don't know for sure, four months short of his 24th birthday, that he is incapable of putting his troubles behind him. And because we -- and the Cowboys -- don't know that, the Cowboys absolutely must find a way to help him.
Help him. Not cut him. Not pile on the way a bloodthirsty NFL-fan public might want them to. The Cowboys have too much invested in Bryant and have too much at stake to give up on a player this young and this good. Their priority needs to be finding ways to help Bryant get his off-field life to a more manageable place. Because if that doesn't happen, the consequences for the young man could be much worse than just being a first-round bust.
Graziano makes a great point that I think most of us are overlooking, Dez Bryant is just 23 years old. Obviously the Cowboys need him to become the type of wide receiver he could be, but they must attempt to help him get back on the right path. While Bryant is a professional athlete who is employed by the Cowboys to help win them football games, he is also a human being with flaws. Clearly Dez has a lot of growing up to do, and he needs help doing that.
Like Graziano said, the consequences could be far worse than Dez turning into a failure as a football player. He could flat out ruin his life, and by all means it would be his fault, but now is the time for Jerry Jones and company to stand by him and try to offer him support. Dez needs to want to be helped, it's up to him if he wants to accept the guidance the Cowboys can offer him.
He must be willing to change and get his life in order. Graziano also discusses what happens when Dez leaves the Cowboys, and that is something that he needs to work on.
The problems happen when Bryant is away from the team, when he's home, unsupervised, in the troubled world from which he came. This is what makes the team hold its breath -- worrying about what will happen to Bryant when they can't see him.
When he walks out of Valley Ranch, there are going to be challenges that Bryant will face now. People are going to test him, wanting him to lose his cool. Like myself, Dez is an emotional person who sometimes let's his emotions take control of him. We have to keep in mind that this is a person with a life to lose, he isn't just a football player who needs to produce on the field, Dez must also produce on the field of life.
It may be time to get Dez together with Michael Irvin. Irvin is obviously very fond of Bryant, and he was very upset with the recent situation when he talked about it on the NFL Network recently. If Dez is going to listen to anyone, it may be someone like Irvin who went through a lot of adversity through his life.
Some are already distancing themselves from Dez Bryant ever having a future with the Cowboys after his rookie contract. One writer in particular, Todd Archer of ESPN.com, has gone on record with his prediction.
Bryant is signed through 2014, yet people are already wondering if he will get a second contract from the Cowboys. I’m on the record saying I don’t think it happens.
I know that many want to just simply release Bryant now and get it over with, but this is a young man who can still turn it around. I am really torn on this situation, because as a fan, I want Dez to make it out of this incident whether he is guilty or innocent, and turn into the type of football player that I believe he can be, but I also want to see him have a great life outside of football.
The Cowboys need to gather all of the facts and make a decision on Bryant, but the best decision would be for them to support Dez and offer him some help with getting his life on track. Dez needs to make some big decisions, and it is totally up to him if he wants to change. Hopefully this is something that he can look back on one day and say that it changed his life, for the best.
He has the talent to become one of the best wide receivers in the game, but the clock is beginning to tick. Time waits for no man, and the time for Dez to change his life must happen now.