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Is There Really A Problem Between The Cowboys And Dez Bryant?

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The latest "controversy" to swirl around Dallas involves the star receiver and what is reputed to be going on regarding negotiations for a new contract.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dez Bryant is up for a new contract after this season. The Dallas Cowboys want to get him signed, but they also have to be concerned with cost and the salary cap. Bryant recently changed his representation for negotiating a new deal. He does not want to be franchised, but the team still has that option if they are forced to use it.

Those are the fairly well established facts framing the situation concerning Bryant's contract. But over the past few days, there has been a new storyline emerge, claiming that there is a growing concern about Bryant and an attempt by the team to force him into signing a team-friendly contract similar to the one Tyron Smith has.

It started with the reports about the curfew and all the players that missed it. However, it is notable that the reports of problems all seemed to originate with a national reporter for the NFL network, not one of the Dallas market reporters that cover the team.

Several of the local reporters, including Mike Fisher and Clarence Hill, sought out some clarification, and the story that seems to have emerged is that the coaching staff, notably head coach Jason Garrett, had wanted a curfew. But teams are not allowed to impose curfews during the regular season, except for the night before a game, per the CBA. Although it is not something that the team seems to want to explain in too much detail, it seems from what has been stated that Garrett may have said he wanted a curfew, and then he was informed or realized he couldn't really do that. So it had to be more or less dropped, and became a suggestion. Several of the players, who are grown men and, in many cases, making millions of dollars, didn't take the suggestion to heart. This included Dez Bryant, who is of course involved in the aforementioned contract talks.

The next Tweet in Rapoport's timeline after the one above is this:

He later specified what he was talking about, including in an interview on 103.5 The Fan.

"It comes down to the Cowboys not trusting him off the field, being very nervous about his behavior off the field," said Rapoport on Shan & RJ on 105.3 The Fan.

What are these issues off the field?

Rapoport recently visited the police station in Bryant's hometown of DeSoto, Texas. He was provided six incidents to which police were called to Bryant's home over the last four years.

The incidents include a sleeping baby being locked inside a car, a harassment incident, and a robbery at the house. These are in addition to the highly-publicized domestic incident between Dez and his mother.

The last incident was reported in November 2013, and none have resulted in convictions.

There are a couple of issues here. First, there is the fact, as stated in the article, that Rapoport went to the police and got this information himself. I realize he may have been verifying something he got from a source, but he did not make that clear. This is just one of those "unnamed source" deals.

Second, the incidents reported don't amount to much, at least not since the domestic situation involving Bryant's mother. I work with a law enforcement agency and deal with the Texas Criminal Code, and can explain that these are not exactly the serious issues that Rapoport implies.

A sleeping baby getting locked in a car is often not a criminal issue, but more one where citizens are appealing to the police for help. It happens at times, and if this was just accidental, where the doors were locked with the keys inside the car, then this is not something to be concerned about. It probably was not a situation that can be laid at Bryant's feet in any case.

Harassment is a unique thing in the Criminal Code. The term harassment is only applicable to certain acts, including telephone or other electronic communication that is not desired by the recipient, and making threats that would cause a reasonable person to feel they were in imminent danger of bodily harm. It is usually filed at the address of the victim. Although not definitive, the fact this call was made indicates someone at the residence felt they were being harassed, and the vast majority of such complaints are against someone outside the residence. This hardly seems like something the team could hold against Bryant.

A robbery call at that address likewise indicates that the victim is likely a resident. If Rapoport is accurate in his reporting, then this would be a case of someone forcibly taking something from someone else, as opposed to simple theft. Again, that hardly seems a scenario where Bryant would be the actor. More likely, someone else from outside the home would be involved. If someone is trying to steal something from Bryant or another resident at his home, that is not a situation that the team would likely be able to hold against him.

There are also other reports that one of the calls involved a fire. That hardly needs to be addressed in light of the implications in the report.

There is another thing that needs to be considered here. Just because a call is made and police are dispatched to a location, that does not mean that an actual offense occurred. Many calls come in to police departments where no actual law has been broken. A common example would be someone calling in because their car was stolen. The police go there, and find out that the caller's spouse of several years took the car and left the relationship. In that case, even if the car is registered solely in the name of the person who called, it is considered community property and the matter is civil, not criminal. This kind of thing happens all the time, but that would still show up in police records as a either a theft or civil problem (depending on local procedures). No criminal act has occurred, but the police did respond to a call.

Having said all this, the report is out there. And it can spawn other reports, such as this:

Cowboys commence putting the screws to Dez Bryant | ProFootballTalk - Mike Florio

One week after news emerged that Bryant had fired agent Eugene Parker and aligned with Jay Z's Roc Nation Sports (to the chagrin of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones), someone leaked to the media company partially owned by the Cowboys the notion that the Cowboys remain concerned about Dez Bryant away from the field.

I may have missed it, but I don't remember seeing much indication that there was any chagrin about the Roc Nation deal, which turned out to have nothing to do with the contract negotiations that are now being handled by CAA agent Tom Condon. And reports from the Dallas media, like the one linked above, at least imply that the change in representation was partly due to Bryant's desire to get a deal done.

But since the Cowboys would prefer something similar to the really good deal they got from Tyron Smith, they are of course "putting the screws" to Bryant. Gosh, when I read that, I wonder if Florio ever wrote an article that contained all of the words "Dallas Cowboys", "salary cap hell", and "Jerry Jones is a terrible GM"? Now, of course, the team is horribly mistreating Bryant because they do not pay him right now with no consideration for how it affects their ability to pay the rest of the players.

There are a lot of Dallas writers I trust on the subject of the Cowboys. Bob Sturm, Mike Fisher, Bryan Broaddus, and Todd Archer are probably at the top of that list, and they have not written anything I have found supporting either Rapoport's or Florio's take on this. In some cases, they have written or tweeted that the entire curfew situation was not an issue, even though some statements made earlier were somewhat confusing about it. Even other writers who take a more adversarial stance towards the Cowboys have not come up with anything other than what was written by the two national writers, at least to my knowledge.

Bryant is engaged in a negotiation for a contract that he wants to pay him appropriate to his worth to the team. His view of what numbers should be in it and the team's view of the same numbers are not surprisingly different. That is called negotiation. It happens all the time. (I am reminded of a joke involving a conversation between a man and a woman in a bar, but I am not certain it would be within site standards to relate here. You probably have heard it, anyway.) The fact a star wide receiver and his employer have not yet found agreement on a contract that is expected to be in the $100 million range is hardly surprising.

But this, of course, is the Dallas Cowboys. Controversy is mandatory. Even if it doesn't really exist.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB