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Friday, April 30, 2010
Boys' Bryant out of breath in first practice

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have 24 players attending their 2010 rookie minicamp this weekend, but all eyes were on wide receiver Dez Bryant during Friday's morning practice. The good news for Cowboys fans is that Bryant made several nifty catches, including one where he reached up and snatched the ball with one hand. I also observed Bryant adjusting to a deep ball nicely when one of the quarterbacks threw it over his wrong shoulder.

He was the most talented player on the field, which is a good thing since he was the only first-rounder to make an appearance Friday. But now the bad news: In the eight Cowboys rookie minicamps I've covered over the years, I've never seen a player struggle this much from a conditioning standpoint. Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman made sure that Bryant had plenty of reps in each drill. And it only took about 45 minutes for Bryant to walk over to the sideline and attempt to puke.

Several cameramen gathered later to say that Bryant only had "dry heaves," but it was obvious that he was out of football shape. He later claimed to enjoy the whole experience since it had been so long since he'd scrimmaged.

"Just getting back in the flow," Bryant told reporters after his first practice. "As the days go on, you will see a lot of progression."

One of the lesser-known wide receivers in camp was overheard shouting at Bryant during practice, "These people didn't come out here to see me. Let's go!."

Wide receivers coach Ray Sherman, who's tutored some of the best in the league, said he wasn't concerned about Bryant's conditioning -- or lack thereof. He even compared Bryant to Cris Carter and former Cowboys great Michael Irvin at one point.

"He's in a class of his own, though" said Sherman. "He's gonna be a special player. There's no doubt in my mind."

Bryant said he was relieved to find out the Cowboys have some similar routes to the ones he ran at Oklahoma State. He planned to spend a lot of time in his new playbook in order to learn the different terminology. On Friday, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was purposely throwing a lot at Bryant to see how he responded. And like Sherman, he didn't appear to be concerned that Bryant struggled with his conditioning. The Cowboys believe that some time with strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek will eventually do the trick.

LB Lee wears a brace: Former Penn State linebacker Sean Lee, a second-round pick, wore a brace on his left knee during Friday's practice. He had told Dallas-Fort Worth's 103.3 ESPN earlier this week that he would not wear a brace, but he was overruled by the Cowboys' medical staff. Lee had tore his anterior cruciate ligament in '08 and missed that entire season. He wore a brace throughout his senior season at Penn State, but was hoping to lose it for good.

"I hope I don't have to wear it [in 2010]," said Lee after practice.

He said that doctors and trainers wanted to be cautious since he was playing on a different surface than he's accustomed to. I asked Lee to come up with the most important thing he learned from legendary coach Joe Paterno.

"Just the extreme passion that he brings," said Lee. "He's 83 and he still coaches with a sense of urgency. And just all the intangibles. He wants us to succeed on the field, but he also wants us to be good young men."

Other notes: Tough day for the young quarterbacks on the roster. Eastern Washington's Matt Nichols has a live arm, but he didn't know where his throws were going. The wide receivers dropped so many balls I stopped counting...My pick to click (as far as undrafted players go) is former Fresno State running back Lonyae Miller. He had the misfortune of playing behind first-rounder Ryan Mathews, but it's obvious the guy has some ability. He'll definitely be a practice squad candidate...I enjoyed watching fullback Chris Gronkowski in drills. He appears to have fairly soft hands, but more importantly, he fired off the ball and brought a lot of aggression in blocking drills...I'll have reports on the Redskins and Eagles throughout the weekend...Oh, and here's the latest on the Scott Sicko saga. He's "incredibly happy" to be a Cowboy after initially telling SI.com's Peter King that he was turning down all offers to play in the league after being passed over in the draft.