Commentary

Dez Bryant better play by rules

If talented receiver steps out of bounds again, Cowboys will have to move on

Updated: August 27, 2012, 5:20 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' plan is obvious. They want to save Dez Bryant from himself.

Bryant, one of the stars of training camp, has agreed to a rigorous set of rules designed and implemented by owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys to prevent any off-the-field issues from affecting his ability to maximize his immense potential.

When Bryant was arrested and charged with misdemeanor family violence last month after an incident with his mother, we all wondered whether he'd get suspended for a game or fined.

Or if he'd be summoned to New York at least for a visit with the commissioner. Well, it has been six weeks, and if it hasn't happened yet, it doesn't seem like it will.

[+] EnlargeBryant/Jones
Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty ImagesCowboys owner Jerry Jones has made it clear to Dez Bryant that he can't have any more off-field issues.

It seems like the Cowboys informed the commissioner of the rules being put in place for Bryant, and he decided that was good enough for him.

Sources told ESPN Dallas some of the rules Bryant must abide are as follows:

• A midnight curfew. If he's going to miss curfew, team officials must know in advance.

• No drinking alcohol.

• He can't attend any strip clubs and can only attend nightclubs if they are approved by the Cowboys and he has a security team with him.

• He must attend counseling sessions twice a week.

• A rotating three-man security team will leave one man with Bryant at all times.

• Members of the security team will drive Bryant to practices, games and team functions.

The sources have also indicated additional rules are in place that will govern virtually every aspect of Bryant's life.

Still, this is far from foolproof.

Pacman Jones had similar restrictions when he played for the Cowboys but managed to get into a fight with his bodyguard, ultimately leading to a six-game suspension and his eventual release from the team.

Of course, that begs the question: What happens if Bryant violates any of the rules the Cowboys have implemented?

My suspicion is he'll be fined substantially for conduct detrimental to the team if he violates a minor rule, and he'll be released if he breaks one of the major stipulations.

That's probably why we had all of the tough talk from Jerry during the latter half of training camp about Bryant getting a plane ticket out of town or having used up all of his chances.

Jerry was putting a plan together that would either allow the Cowboys to benefit from Bryant's talent or persuade them that the 23-year-old receiver will never give them the dynamic playmaking receiver they hoped they were getting with the 24th pick in the 2010 draft.

Every one of us knows it's ridiculous for a grown man with two children to have these kinds of restrictions placed upon him. The reality is that Bryant, who had a childhood worse than most of us can conceive, has proved time after time that he's struggling to succeed in this gauntlet we call life.

The Cowboys want Bryant to experience at least one season with no off-the-field drama with mall cops or his girlfriend or his mother.

They want him to see and understand exactly what he can accomplish in a life free of drama.

They anticipate a huge season from Bryant, which in turn they hope will show him just how good he can be and how much money he can make if he'll simply take control of his life.

Bryant caught 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns last season, despite struggling with the playbook and being in less than a superior shape.

As Jason Garrett explained to Bryant, being built like a Greek god doesn't mean you're in great shape. It means God blessed you with a phenomenal body.

One reason Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald is so good despite his average speed is that he runs the same speed in the first quarter and the fourth quarter. He maintains his speed on the first play of a drive and on the 12th play. And he doesn't slow down, even if he has run three consecutive deep routes.

Bryant worked hard on his conditioning in the offseason and he has a substantially better grasp of the playbook. He was the only receiver, including Miles Austin, to consistently give Brandon Carr trouble in training camp.

And he did well in the first two preseason games before suffering some minor knee tendinitis that is forcing him to miss the final two games of the preseason.

If Bryant can't succeed on the field -- or off -- under these strict guidelines, then it'll be clear to everyone that it's time for the Cowboys to release him at the end of the season and move on.

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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