Dez Bryant's promise put to test

IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant believes the flashes of brilliance will start occurring frequently. He vows the frustrating mistakes will cease.

The Dallas Cowboys' most maddening player -- because of his seemingly limitless ability and because of all his flaws -- promises he's prepared to live up to his potential.

"I feel like now, it's about time," Bryant told ESPNDallas.com on Thursday. "It's about time."

Oh, it's about time, all right. It might be now or never, as far as Bryant's career with the Cowboys goes.

Bryant better prove for the rest of the season that his production -- not just potential -- is worth putting up with all of his problems. If not, the Cowboys could spend some of their offseason coming up with a plan to replace the immensely talented receiver who slid to the 24th overall pick of the 2010 draft primarily because of personal issues.

The Dallas front office has no choice but to remain seated on the Bryant bandwagon for now, but that doesn't mean they can't start searching for a parachute.

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones threatened Bryant's job this summer, when his off-field issues hit a low point with his misdemeanor arrest for an alleged physical confrontation with his mother, a case that has yet to be settled. Following Sunday's loss to the New York Giants, Jones sounded fed up with Bryant's on-field performance for the first time, pointedly noting that mistakes lose games more than big plays win them.

And that was after Bryant recorded a career-high 110 receiving yards, not to mention his amazing, acrobatic catch in the end zone that would have been the game-winning touchdown ... if only it wasn't overturned after replays showed his fingertips came down out of bounds.

Hey, the expectations for this guy are as high as the hole in the JerryWorld roof. That's been apparent since the day of the draft, when Jerry handed Bryant a No. 88 jersey and anointed him as next in line behind Cowboys greats Drew Pearson and Michael Irvin.

Bryant, who exudes confidence, embraces those expectations. He firmly believes he's ready to live up to his billing.

"Dez being Dez. Me being me. Me playing my game," Bryant said. "That's what they should expect from me."

Here's a frightening thought for fans, the front office, coaches and especially his quarterback: What we've seen is Dez being Dez.

It's getting harder and harder to believe that it's going to change for the better. It's becoming more and more difficult to expect him to eliminate the crushing mistakes.
Last week's performance against the Giants seemed to be Dez defined: a performance that featured big plays, good and bad, and ended in frustration.

Bryant, whom the Cowboys' front office considers one of the top two or three most talented receivers in the NFL, believes he's been building toward a breakout. There's certainly ample statistical evidence to support that case.

After seven games this season, Bryant is on pace for 94 catches and 1,115 yards, which would by far be the best numbers of his career. His October featured two 100-yard outings -- one more than he had in his first 29 games -- and a career-best 13-catch, two-touchdown day.

But all that awesome is overshadowed by Bryant's awful moments.

His 105 receiving yards against the Chicago Bears were a mere footnote after the "Monday Night Football" audience witnessed him make a mental mistake on a hot route that resulted in a pick-six and drop three passes, one of which could have been a 69-yard touchdown.

The attention on Bryant after his 13-reception game against the Baltimore Ravens wasn't focused on the all the balls he caught. It was on the one he dropped -- which would have been a game-tying two-point conversion in the final minute.

Bryant's five catches for 110 yards against the Giants were easily forgotten. His sloppy route running that resulted in an interception and poor ball security that led to a fumble -- and his being stripped of the role as primary punt returner -- were the bigger story. (Granted, that would have changed if his fingertips landed a couple of inches to the left.)

"I'm not Superman or anything like that," Bryant said. "Sometimes I feel like things happen and it's all about how I respond to those bad situations. Do I learn from them? Do I keep making the same mistakes? I feel like I do a good job learning from my mistakes."

Believe it or not, quarterback Tony Romo backs Bryant on that. If nothing else, credit the franchise quarterback who frequently confronts Bryant after plays for being politically correct on the topic of his lightning-rod receiver.

"I think he just needs to continue to grow, understand and work at the little details, and he is," Romo said. "It's just a little bit of a process. I think you are going to see a guy who is going to continue to get better and better and explode on the scene."

There have been explosions. Too often the Cowboys get hit by the shrapnel.

Bryant understands that can't continue. He gets that being a football fool is no way to go through a career.

And Bryant knows he can't keep letting his emotions get the best of him, especially since the book on him is that he'll get rattled when he gets riled up, which is why opponents often give him an extra shove and talk trash early in games.

"It's about me doing what I need to be doing, me calming down," Bryant said. "Stop trying to do too much. I'm at a steady pace with myself and how I want to play. I feel like the biggest thing is I just need to control myself. Now, I feel in control, believe it or not.

"When I went up for that catch [in the end zone against the Giants], I knew I was going to catch it. That's that confidence and me being under control. That's what I'm talking about. I feel like I'm where I need to be right now.

"It's about time for me to do what I need to be doing."

It's about time for Bryant to give good reason to keep believing in him. Before it's too late.