IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant needed help taking a shower and getting dressed. He left FedEx Field in a wheelchair. His back spasms were so bad that he couldn’t run routes for the first few months of the offseason.
Yet there was still a piece of Bryant who felt like he let his teammates down the last time they faced the Redskins, a loss with the NFC East title at stake in the 2012 regular-season finale.
“It was hard,” Bryant said. “I love football. It was heartbreaking. Just because not being able to finish the game and just thinking about all of the what-ifs, if I would’ve stayed in the game and all that kind of stuff. I kind of felt like there was nothing I could do about it because of my back. I kind of also felt like I didn’t do my part.”
Bryant had four catches for 71 yards before his back spasms sidelined him for most of the second half that night. He didn’t score in that game, something that has happened only twice in the Cowboys’ last 13 games.
The bitter memories of that Week 17 loss to the Redskins bothered Bryant well after his back stopped aching. It’s something he thought about every day during the offseason, serving as fuel for his drive to build on his breakout second half of the season.
But revenge isn’t Bryant’s motivation Sunday night. The what-ifs from 2012 “kind of wore off” once the Cowboys started training camp. He’s now immersed in the daily grind of trying to get another chance to win a division championship.
Those memories from the last meeting with the Redskins are back-of-the-mind material, for Bryant and other Cowboys.
“No question it’s a new year, new team, but it’s always on your mind when you think about those situations,” tight end Jason Witten said. “What a big game they had, they took advantage of it. You’ve got to move on, but at the same time, that’s what pushes you every day.
“When you lose an opportunity, you want to take advantage of it, the next time you get a chance.”