Commentary

Bryant: Mum on mom won't work long

May be up to Goodell to judge if, when receiver must speak to abuse allegations

Updated: July 25, 2012, 11:38 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

DALLAS -- Dez Bryant proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he could sit in the same room as his mother, Angela, for a few minutes without police intervention.

Other than that, the Tuesday news conference at attorney Royce West's office was pretty much pointless.

Roger Goodell
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Cowboys know from past experiences with Pacman Jones how decidedly NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can act if he deems conduct detrimental to the league's reputation, regardless
of any incident's legal ramifications.
With all due respect for the Texas senator's ability to use voice inflection for emphasis, it was a waste of time to listen to West read a canned, seven-paragraph statement that took eight days to prepare. His staff might as well have emailed the statement along with glamour shots of the dysfunctional mom-and-son duo posing together.

It couldn't have been any less genuine. Had Bryant not nodded a couple of times when West read the sixth paragraph -- the one that mentioned that Dez and his mom thought the matter could be worked out through counseling -- he might as well have been a mannequin.

"I would love to make a statement, but I can't," Bryant said as he exited the room, responding to a question about whether he had met with his Dallas Cowboys bosses to discuss the drama.

I'd love to give Bryant the benefit of the doubt, but I can't. Not just based on listening to a slick lawyer speak for a couple of minutes.

Can NFL commissioner Roger Goodell? As far as the Cowboys are concerned, that's the most important question at the moment.

At some point, the troubled 23-year-old receiver will have to answer for his actions during the "family disagreement" that led his 37-year-old mother to call 911. Bryant will have to explain why his mom's T-shirt and bra were ripped when police in DeSoto, Texas, arrived and how she suffered the bruises and swelling officers saw when she met with police again two days later.

Any revelation probably won't happen in a Dallas County courtroom. Family violence cases are difficult to prosecute without the alleged victim's cooperation, and Ms. Bryant decided at some point in the last week to back off her accusations against the son who pays her bills. This misdemeanor case isn't likely to be considered worth taxpayers' money to pursue.

The explanation might not happen in front of the media. Tuesday's photo op won't stop the questions from coming at training camp, but Bryant has the right to decline comment when surrounded by rolling cameras and tape recorders.

"Keep your mouth shut" sure seems like sound legal advice.

"No comment" won't work with the commish, however.

The NFL's personal conduct policy makes it clear that a player doesn't need to be convicted of a crime to draw the wrath of Sheriff Goodell. If Goodell deems conduct detrimental to the league's reputation, he's within his rights to respond with a fine or suspension.

"Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in the conviction of a crime," the policy states.

Those are powerful words, even without being read aloud by an influential politician.

The precedent has been set for Goodell to drop the hammer without a criminal conviction. The Cowboys know one case all too well.

Pacman Jones wasn't even arrested after his rear end shattered an innocent glass umbrella figurine during a bathroom brawl with a team-paid bodyguard at The Joule hotel in Dallas in 2008. Goodell ignored the Cowboys' attempt to sweep the incident under the rug -- just "jivin'" gone a little too far, Jerry Jones insisted -- and slapped a six-game suspension (originally announced as indefinite) on Pacman.

Of course, compared to Pacman, Bryant comes across as an angel. Considering Bryant's horrible upbringing after being born to a teenage mother later convicted of multiple charges of dealing crack cocaine, it's kind of commendable he had never been arrested until this month.

But Bryant's pattern of immature, irresponsible behavior is sure to concern the commissioner.

This incident came months after Bryant was detained, but not arrested, in a Miami Beach club after a confrontation with rapper Lil' Wayne's posse. It comes a little more than a year after Bryant and his buddies were kicked out of a Dallas mall for cussing out off-duty cops who, while working as security guards, dared to order the group to pull up their sagging britches.

Maybe Bryant can escape the summer with just a slap on the wrist or stern warning from Goodell. That's the best-case scenario for the Cowboys.

It's a safe bet that the commissioner's patience won't survive the next time Bryant sits silently while West reads in front of a room packed with reporters.

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