- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant can’t get caught up in the conversation.
It’s cool for Roger Staubach to proclaim that Bryant will be the NFL’s best receiver if he can stay healthy this season. It’s fine for Jerry Jones to chime in, saying it’s early to make that claim but adding that Bryant “unquestionably” has that kind of talent.
But it does Bryant no good to spend one second contemplating how he compares with Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson and the league’s other elite receivers, no matter how much the media hypes his climb into that elite company.
“I’m just going to continue to play my game,” Bryant said. “That’s all I can do, just go out there and just listen to my quarterback, listen to my guys who are doing it right and see where it takes me and us.”
You better believe head coach Jason Garrett would be proud of that boring answer. The best thing about it is that Bryant really means it.
Bryant, the most talented receiver to ever wear a Cowboys uniform, has matured enough to know that hype doesn’t help win games. Intense, consistent focus does.
If Bryant maintains his focus, he won’t need to tell anybody that he’s one of the league’s premier receivers. His game will shout it out for him.
That happened in a limited sample size in the second half of last season, when Bryant blew up for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns on 50 catches, stats that project as historically elite production. He’s picked up where he left off this preseason, catching 13 passes (on 14 targets) for 183 yards and a touchdown in about four quarters of work.
With his physical tools and mental growth, Bryant is expected to make monster numbers seem mundane.
“That’s fine,” Bryant said. “I don’t look at pressure. I go out and play my game. I always got a high standard for myself. I think a lot of people do. If they don’t, it’s a problem. I always have a high standard for myself. That’s just how it goes. If I put up the numbers, I put them up.
“I just have a high standard for myself. That’s going out there and trying to be the best I possibly can. I think by having that mindset, something good’s gotta come out of it. That’s how I roll.”
How good can Bryant be?
“The sky’s the limit,” Jones said, and in this case, it doesn’t come across as typical Jerry hyperbole.
Bryant certainly won’t set any limits on himself. He made that clear this summer, when he said he thinks he’s capable of becoming the NFL’s first 2,000-yard receiver.
That comment brought some backlash, with some folks choosing to ignore the context in an attempt to portray Bryant as a me-first prima donna. The fact of the matter is that Bryant is a physical freak who desperately wants to achieve his potential, but team success is much more important to him than individual numbers.
That 2,000-yard talk will be an exception. Don’t expect to hear Bryant boast much about his production. He’ll publicly pump up teammates, but he’s learned that actions mean much more than words when it comes to his game.
Take, for example, Bryant’s response when asked if he feels like he can be covered one-on-one.
“Can I answer that question a little later?” Bryant said. “I promise I’ll give y’all an honest answer.”
His answer will come any Sunday that a defensive coordinator dares to leave a cornerback on an island with him.