- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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How dare Dez Bryant express a desire to be one of the all-time greats?!
How could he be so arrogant to want to build on the individual success of his breakout season?! He’s clearly just another selfish, prima donna receiver who cares more about his stats than the success of his team.
Except nothing could be further from the truth.
Bryant’s stated belief that he can be the first receiver to reach 2,000 yards in NFL history was two things: 1) an honest answer to a question posed to him after he said he doesn’t think he’s come close to reaching his potential; 2) a challenge to himself to continue working to be great.
It was by no means an indication that Bryant puts a higher priority on his numbers than the Cowboys’ record, as anyone who read Tuesday’s story on ESPNDallas.com knows.
"No matter what I've done last year or what anybody did in Dallas last year, it don't mean nothing," Bryant said Tuesday. "Stats mean nothing. You want to win. At the end of the day, you want to be strapping up for the playoffs.
"That's the way I go about my business. I love to work. I love grinding. I feel like I'm better under pressure. Whenever you want to win like I do, anything is possible."
Bryant has his flaws – and he’s working to fix those with a lot of help from others – but his desire to win can’t be questioned.
This is a receiver who risked the permanent loss of flexibility in the index finger on his dominant hand, deciding in December to postpone surgery until after the season because he desperately wanted to help the Cowboys make the playoffs.
The Cowboys came up short, losing to the Washington Redskins in the de facto NFC East title game in the regular-season finale, and Bryant was an emotional wreck for about a week. He felt like he let his team down by suffering a significant back injury that forced him to leave FedEx Field in a wheelchair and still isn’t fully healed.
His Cowboys coaches and teammates marvel at Bryant’s talent and rave about his competitiveness. That franchise would be much better off if they had more players who matched Bryant’s passion, although channeling it in correctly has been a challenge at times. So would every other NFL team.
It’d be one thing to call out Bryant for having me-first motives if he had ever pulled a T.O. and publicly complained about not getting the ball enough. On the contrary, he’s consistently talked about it being his responsibility to earn the trust of Tony Romo and Jason Garrett, not their job to get him the ball.
It’s also silly to suggest that Bryant putting up record-breaking numbers would somehow be to the Dallas’ detriment due to a lack of balance in the Cowboys’ offense. Jerry Rice managed to earn three Super Bowl rings while rewriting the receiving chapter of the NFL record book.
Is it premature to mention Bryant’s name in the same breath as the greatest receiver ever to put on a pair of gloves? Sure. But if a receiver as talented as Bryant didn’t challenge himself to reach those heights, that’d be reason to rip him.
Anyone calling Bryant out for considering himself capable of 2,000 yards is just looking to get a jolt from one of the NFL’s most electrifying lightning rods.