Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 11/4/11
With all the noise surrounding Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, can you imagine what it will be like if he ever accomplishes something. If Bryant had been drafted by, say, the Seattle Seahawks, no one would be writing national columns about his sideline decorum. Playing for the Cowboys provides some players with a bigger stage than they deserve. Bryant was supposed to be a huge part of the Cowboys' passing game in his second year, but his production has been far exceeded by his camera time. This isn't entirely his fault because it's not like he's expecting a national columnist to take a break from a Sunday night blowout in Philly and just focus on the wide receiver's sideline antics. But head coach Jason Garrett and quarterback Tony Romo were both asked about Bryant's sideline behavior during interviews at Valley Ranch on Thursday. Never mind that the larger issue is Bryant and Pro Bowl wide receiver Miles Austin only catching a combined six passes for 55 yards against the Eagles. Garrett can talk forever about how that game took the Cowboys away from their game plan, but it was still shocking to see Bryant catch his first pass of the game in the fourth quarter of a blowout. In other games where Bryant disappears for long stretches, it's been easy to theorize that Romo doesn't trust him. He'd rather look for tight end Jason Witten or Austin late in games. But the disturbing thing coming out of Sunday night's game was that it appeared Bryant couldn't get any separation from Eagles cornerbacks. Nnamdi Asomugha may be one of the top corners in the league, but there's no reason he should be able win so many battles with Bryant in press coverage. But even on days when he's not involved in the offense, Bryant remains a lightning rod for the Cowboys. That's what led CBSsports.com's Mike Freeman to detail the player's every move on the sideline and conclude that Bryant will become a problem for the team. Garrett is the exact opposite of Bryant on the Cowboys sideline. Even as everything was crashing around him last Sunday night, he stared intently at his laminated chart and appeared to make notations with a red pen. He and Romo certainly hear what Bryant's saying on the sideline, but they seem to tune him out for the most part. They've both had the displeasure of working with perhaps the most divisive wide receiver in the history of the league in Terrell Owens. And so that's the name that was uttered by reporters Thursday as a point of reference for Bryant. Dez is a very passionate guy, said Garrett. We like guys who are passionate about playing football. There's no question about that. Any emotion that guys have on our football team seems to me to be really positive, trying to do what they can to help contribute to us winning. Dez is a guy who loves playing football. And to be fair, the NBC cameras showed footage Sunday of both Bryant and Austin being very demonstrative in talking to wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, who joined the Cowboys after winning a Super Bowl ring with the Green Bay Packers. Bryant is currently tied for 52nd in the league with 22 receptions, but nine of those have gone for at least 20 yards. Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings ranks fifth in the NFL with 42 catches, but he has the same amount of 20-yard catches as Bryant. It's obvious that Bryant could be a potent weapon, which makes it all the more maddening to see him disappear for entire halves. If he were catching six or seven passes per game and had eight touchdowns, do you think his sideline antics would even warrant a mention? In a brief conversation with Bryant on Thursday, he told me he thought all the talk about his sideline behavior was crazy and he doesn't understand why it's such a big deal. Romo seems to agree. Dez is great, Romo said. His emotion, there is never a negative emotion that comes from it. It's just positive consistently. He's just a kid who loves playing the game. He's passionate. But there is never any malice or anything negative involved. Cameras can catch whatever they want, he is never mean to another person or anything like that. He just wants to win and he's excited about being out there playing. We're lucky to have him. Bryant doesn't have enough standing in the locker room to become a divisive force at this point. And it doesn't seem to be in his nature to second-guess his coaches and teammates. His lack of production is a legitimate concern, but what he's doing on the sideline hasn't contributed to the Cowboys' 3-4 season. In fact, there are times you wish Garrett might show a little emotion on the sideline. If the worst you can say about Bryant is that he abhors losing, that doesn't sound like a major issue. The focus should be on his lack of opportunities on the field. There's no excuse for that.
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