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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Cowboys plan to use Dez Bryant on punt returns

By Tim MacMahon

PHOENIX, Ariz. – The Cowboys plan to use Dez Bryant as their primary punt returner against the Cardinals, a source said.

Bryant had not been used in that role since Miles Austin strained his hamstring in the Nov. 6 win over the Seahawks. Bryant’s only punt return since then was a 20-yarder that set up the Cowboys’ game-winning drive against the Dolphins last week.

There had been internal discussions about waiting until Austin returned for next week’s game against the Giants to use Bryant as the primary punt returner, but the coaching staff has opted to use their most dynamic threat in that role this week.

Bryant has averaged 9.4 yards on five punt returns this season, having been stripped of those duties for a month after suffering a deep thigh bruise on his first punt return of the season. He starred in that role as a rookie, averaging 14.3 yards and scoring on two of his 15 punt returns.

Dwayne Harris and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah – neither of whom remains on the 53-man roster – have handled the bulk of the punt returning duties for the Cowboys this season. Dallas ranks 25th in the NFL with an average of 8.3 yards on punt returns, a number they hope Bryant boosts immediately.