Cowboys must help Bryant, not dump him
I don't know if Dez Bryant will ever completely get his act together, and neither do you. The people who are calling for the Dallas Cowboys to release Bryant in the wake of his Monday arrest on a domestic violence charge, those who are shouting about how he'll never get it and isn't worth the trouble, must take a step back for a moment and remember what it is that we actually do know.
We know that Bryant is only 23 years old, and that labeling someone irretrievable when they're still that young is not just foolish but irresponsible. We know he hasn't had much reliable guidance in his life. And if you believe Deion Sanders, he hasn't always responded well when guidance has been offered. We know that he's made bad choices, that he has too often acted in ways that show he doesn't understand his responsibilities as a young adult, let alone a star athlete in the public eye.
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.
It may be that, in the new Cowboys culture with Jason Garrett calling more shots, the team would never draft Bryant if given the choice to do so now. But that's irrelevant. He's on the team, and they need to find a way to make it work. When he's at the team facility and on the practice field, he doesn't carry himself like a punk or a prima donna. By all accounts, he works hard, is respectful of coaches and fits in well with his teammates. When Bryant goes to work, things are fine. He's a young player, learning the league and getting better all the time.
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. It had been an encouragingly quiet offseason for Bryant until Monday, and the team had reason to believe, with two weeks left until training camp, that he had a chance to get through it without incident. He did not, and now they must once again wonder if this is a player on whom they can count in the long run. Even if the team decides that discipline isn't the way to go, there remains the possibility that Roger Goodell and his personal conduct policy will decide otherwise. Right now, the Cowboys don't know whether they can be sure Bryant will be eligible to play all 16 games for them this year.
|The 911 call Dez Bryant's mother, Angela Bryant, made to DeSoto, Texas, police after the Cowboys receiver allegedly assaulted her. |
Bryant is too important to the Cowboys to be such a question mark, and the team's goal has to be finding some way to ensure that he's not. It won't be easy. Bryant's 23-plus years are loaded with potentially intractable obstacles that have led many people to wonder whether he can ever get it together. But no matter what anybody's saying today, we don't actually know that he can't.
Bryant had never been arrested prior to Monday. For all of his off-field issues with money, his run-ins with police and mall security, nothing he'd ever done prior to Monday had resulted in an actual arrest. That makes what happened Monday worse, by literal definition, than anything he's done to that point. And that could mean he's a young man headed in the wrong direction instead of the right one. There are quite a few people out there who continually await Bryant's next misstep, because we live in an I-told-you-so world. People are obsessed with being proven right, and those who made up their minds about Bryant long ago believe that Monday proved them right.
But he's 23 years old, and the world shouldn't be giving up on troubled 23-year-olds, no matter who they are. It happens that this particular 23-year-old is a talented, wealthy, young star athlete, and for that reason he may get more chances to turn his life around than another 23-year-old would. That may not be fair, but if those extra chances bring the right result, it's going to be worth it. No matter how many they are or how frustrating is the process of continuing to offer them. The goal here shouldn't be to find, label and cast aside the 23-year-olds who are making bad decisions. The goal should be finding ways to help them make better ones.
I don't know if Dez Bryant can be saved from his lifelong cycle of poor choices, but neither do the Cowboys. And until they know for sure, the only choice they have -- for football reasons, moral reasons and common-decency reasons -- is to keep trying.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss this week's minicamp and Dez Bryant. Claiborne will join the show to discuss the latest Cowboys news all season.
Play Podcast Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett for his weekly visit and you won't believe who he says is the Cowboys' best player.
Play Podcast Cowboys wide receivers coach Derek Dooley joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to talk about Dez Bryant's talent and potential.
Play Podcast Glenn "Stretch" Smith and Matt Mosley talk about their time at Day 2 of Cowboys minicamp and discuss Monte Kiffin's defensive principles and his growing relationship with the players.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL insider John Clayton joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys and Tony Romo missing OTAs.
Play Podcast ESPN senior NFL analyst Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss another busy week for the Cowboys at Valley Ranch.
Play Podcast ESPN NFL analyst Mark Schlereth joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss how Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and others spend lots of time with their receivers and if it matters that Tony Romo is not participating in OTAs.
Play Podcast Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss what he's looking for during the third session of OTAs, a potential Sean Lee contract extension and why people underestimate Miles Austin's value.