- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- In Detroit last week, it was about the sideline antics and how to act like a professional.
On Sunday, back in his home stadium, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant was still struggling with it. He turns 25 on Monday, and while that can be used as an excuse for slipups in his behavior, when they do happen, they sometimes cost his team.
Bryant didn’t have a sideline moment, but he had another one of those "it’s always something with him" moments in the Cowboys' 27-23 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
While protesting a pass interference call against him with the referees, Bryant took his helmet off, drawing a 15-yard penalty and pushing his team out of field goal range.
Bryant said he didn’t know there’s a rule about not taking your helmet off on the field of play and only did it so the referees could see his face.
“I didn’t know it was a flag,” Bryant said. “The play was over with and I didn’t know it was a flag. I learned from it. Not a big deal anymore.”
Bryant gave you that smile of his, like we’re all in on the joke and we understand how the emotions of football and life sometimes get to us and we have those slipups.
Bryant finished with six catches for 64 yards and two drops. But Bryant had a 34-yard reception on a slant on the final offensive drive of the day, and that catch put the Cowboys in position to win.
Earlier, he dropped a pass; if he catches it, he’s running for days, stopping only until he gets to the end zone.
But the emotional Bryant became poised later in the game.
“I was kinda expecting the ball,” he said. “Whenever Tony [Romo] gives me the signal, and all I was thinking about was the pass that I dropped before that. That pass that was a touchdown and, man, I knew it before the ball that was thrown. It wasn’t the same play. I felt like I have to make up for it. I wasn’t down, I’m never down when I drop a pass. I’m ready to come back and make a play.”
That’s why the Cowboys love Bryant and understand why he’s the most important part of this offense.
The Cowboys need Bryant.
But what happened in Detroit -- where he was waving his arms, yelling and screaming about coverages and then getting into it with Jason Witten toward the end -- brought a staggering amount of attention.
“Yeah, I understand that. But come on, man, throughout this whole week that was a whole bunch of nonsense, that was uncalled for,” Bryant said. “It really wasn’t all that serious for people to be talking about that situation throughout the week. My quarterback said what it was, all the players in here said what it was, even the audio came out and people still talking about it -- that’s a damn shame. That’s just the world that we live in, man. All I gotta do is keep playing football and not let that stuff get to me.”
Bryant said he felt different with the cameras watching his every move on the sidelines. Receivers coach Derek Dooley told Bryant not to curtail the passion. Dooley said Bryant won’t let what people say about him change who he is.
“It kinda threw me off a little bit. I have to watch myself,” Bryant said. “I didn’t want y'all to get me on camera and make me look like a fool. I had to watch that a little bit and I had to contain it a little bit -- that’s me, it’s all positive. I feel like that’s who I am. That’s what brings the excitement to me and to others. I can’t let nobody destroy the passion I have for this game.”
The passion shouldn’t be shut down. How the Cowboys use Bryant needs more focus. He didn't get thrown to until a minute remained in the first half last week in Detroit. On Sunday, he was targeted on two of the first three pass plays of the game. He broke two tackles on his big 34-yard reception.
You can't teach what Bryant has: talent. He's got it, but he needs to relax sometimes. He needs to calm down. It's OK to get excited and pump up your teammates, but you can't have too many slipups.
The world is watching.