Commentary

Dez Bryant must shape up or ship out

Jerry Jones has made it clear his patience with Cowboys WR has reached limit

Updated: August 2, 2012, 11:36 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

OXNARD, Calif. -- Jerry Jones wants you to know Dez Bryant must change his lifestyle, or he won't have a star on the side of his helmet much longer.

Jerry's words after Wednesday afternoon's practice sounded more like a promise than a threat.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
AP Photo/James D SmithDez Bryant is off to an impressive start at camp, but none of that matters if he can't follow the Cowboys' rules.
It's about time.

No more ambiguity for Bryant. Or the Cowboys.

He's either going to conform to a set of rigid rules the club is in the process of imposing, or he'll have to ply his trade with one of the league's other 31 clubs.

"I'm as firm as I can be," Jerry said. "I don't know when I've ever been firmer.

"He's in a situation where he has some responsibilities and consequences that will result in change."

Jerry can't be any clearer than that.

It turns out he's still mad at Bryant for being involved in an incident last month that resulted in Bryant being arrested on a misdemeanor family violence charge.

Domestic violence is an area that has NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's full attention. According to the league's personal conduct policy, a player convicted of domestic violence can be subject to fines and/or suspension.

The charges against Bryant are expected to be dropped soon, in part, because his mother doesn't want to press charges.

"We are going to do some things to combat this problem because some of the numbers on DUIs and domestic violence are going up and that disturbs me," Goodell said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "When there's a pattern of mistakes, something has got to change."

Uh oh.

Sounds like Bryant is probably going to get fined or suspended -- maybe both -- once the legal process is complete.

Jerry, as you would expect, declined to divulge the details of his meeting with Bryant on Tuesday, but this situation is similar to Pacman Jones' situation with the Cowboys in 2008.

In an effort to keep Jones on the field and away from any off-the-field incidents that could result in a suspension, the Cowboys provided security personnel that drove Jones back and forth to practice.

Jones He's in a situation where he has some responsibilities and consequences that will result in change.

-- Jerry Jones on Dez Bryant
They banned him from dance clubs or strip clubs and prohibited him from attending any events without security.

Eventually, Goodell suspended Jones after he was involved in a fight with his bodyguard at downtown hotel.

Hey, you can't make this stuff up.

While we don't know exactly what sanctions the Cowboys have placed on Bryant, we can be sure they're among the most stringent Jerry has ever placed upon a player.

Jerry doesn't want Bryant in any environment in which trouble can easily be found, which is understandable.

Any time someone is making a significant lifestyle change, radical changes in habits and behavior must occur.

It's early, we know, but Bryant has been impressive in training camp. He has caught virtually every pass directed toward him, and he appears to have no issues lining up in the right spot.

Bryant's going just as hard in individual drills as he is in team drills, and he looks like a player who's ready to have a season worthy of a first-round pick.

He's seems oblivious to the storm swirling around him.

"Everybody has issues in their lives," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We just gotta make sure we're mentally tough enough and strong enough and mature enough to say when it's time to go to work playing and coaching football we're able to do that. It's a theme our players hear from me over and over and over again.

"It's about compartmentalizing and it's about mental discipline. We understand players and coaches are human beings and a lot of things [are] going on in their lives. But the best ones are able to focus on the task at hand, and we've certainly talked to him about that as well."

All of that's cool, but Jerry has run out of patience. Seriously, who thought that was possible? The man believes in giving second and third chances.

Apparently, though, he has reached his limit with his prodigiously talented 2010 first-round pick just three training camps into the receiver's career.

You don't have to watch too many training camp practices to know losing Bryant would be a blow to the Cowboys.

They need him.

But he must earn the right to play this season by following the rules and understanding the consequences if he doesn't.

All we can do is hope he gets it this time.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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