Nobody at Valley Ranch should have been shocked at Dez Bryant’s arrest for allegedly assaulting his mom. Only disappointed.
Something like this happening with Bryant is a constant concern for the Cowboys. Those worries prompted other teams to pass on a top-10 talent in the 2010 draft, letting Bryant slide to the Cowboys late in the first round.
Those concerns, like Bryant’s emotional scars from a traumatic childhood, will never go away. Just look at Jerry Jones’ reaction in June, when asked whether Bryant’s incident-free stretch of several months was evidence that the 23-year-old is maturing.
“As soon as you note that,” Jerry said, “the next morning you’ve got one.”
As soon as Jerry said that, he started backpedaling like Brandon Carr. Not just Dez, he insisted. Oh, he could be talking about any player. Sure, Jerry.
There’s no player on the Cowboys’ roster who merits more time and resources to keep on the straight and narrow than Bryant. But the Cowboys knew it would be a rocky ride on the Bryant bandwagon when they chose to hop aboard. No sense in whining about it when things go wrong.
Yes, the Class A misdemeanor family violence charge is Bryant’s first arrest. But he’s had a couple of near-misses with the law, and Angela Bryant indicated on the 911 call that this isn’t the first time her son has gotten physical with her.
Bryant’s horrific background doesn’t excuse the behavior he’s accused of, just like it doesn’t excuse the problems he had with professionalism and punctuality that prompted the Cowboys to slap six figures worth of fines on him his rookie year.
However, it’s impossible to ignore the impact of Bryant’s chaotic upbringing in his life, a situation that some college recruiters have called the worst they’ve ever seen. His mother, a child when Bryant was born, made ends meet by selling crack, leading to an 18-month prison sentence while Bryant was in elementary school. His father, who was in his 40s and working as a pimp when Bryant was born, wasn’t around much. He bounced around from home to home.
Bryant is not a bad guy. He’s a good-hearted young man who makes bad decisions due to his immaturity and inability to contain his emotions.
Those are issues the Cowboys committed to deal with the day they traded up a few spots to draft him.
As Jones has said several times, nothing Bryant has done during his time with the Cowboys has been a surprise. Not the good, not the bad.
And there has been a lot of good, enough to have hope that greatness is to come. The troubling incident in Bryant’s personal life doesn’t delete the professional progress he’s made within the last year and a half.
Bryant has yet to approach his potential, but a lot of second-year receivers would be pretty proud of ranking 30th in the NFL in yards and tied for sixth in touchdown catches. Bryant readily admits that he’s still working to earn Tony Romo’s trust, but he’s done enough to make the franchise quarterback comfortable going to him with the game on the line.
The Cowboys don’t worry about Bryant while he’s at work. They were extremely encouraged by what they saw from him at Valley Ranch this offseason.
“I do know one thing: He is certainly different as far as his maturity level and what it takes to play in the National Football League than he was when he got here,” Jones said at that June mini-camp.
As far as big-picture business goes for the Cowboys, it’s a matter of fear vs. hope. If the hope that Bryant can be a Hall of Famer outweighs the fear the coaches and front office live with every time he leaves the facility, Bryant will have a long career with the Cowboys. If not, he’ll be done here by the end of his rookie deal.
What it really comes down to is Dez vs. his demons. The demons had a head start. Dez needs the Cowboys’ help, and they knew that when they drafted him.