Playoffs delay Dez's surgery

IRVING, Texas -- If the Dallas Cowboys didn't have legitimate playoff hopes, wide receiver Dez Bryant said he would have undergone season-ending surgery on his broken left index finger.

However, with the Cowboys one game out of the NFC East lead and the conference's wild card spots, Bryant said he intended to play unless told by doctors that it was impossible, delaying the surgery until Dallas' season is done.

"The position that we are in, that makes me want to be out there," said Bryant, who leads the Cowboys with 1,028 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. "If there was anything less than what we got a chance of, I would have went ahead and got surgery."

Bryant plans on being in the starting lineup when the 7-6 Cowboys play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium, although he is officially listed as questionable. He accepts that he'll likely have limited flexibility in that finger for the rest of his life and will have to fight through excruicating pain for the rest of the season.

With his finger heavily taped, Bryant said he caught passes and used his hands to fight off press coverage during Friday's practice. The official injury reported listed Bryant as a limited participant in practice for the second consecutive day. The finger is still swollen, although Bryant said the swelling has gone down significantly.

Bryant indicated that his finger would be more heavily protected during the game, but he declined to divulge details. Head coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys' medical staff is tinkering with some taped-up splints.
Bryant, who wasn't sure whether he would get a pregame pain-killing injection, believes his mind is the most important factor in dealing with pain.

"It is a mental thing," Bryant said. "I felt like if I go out there and am worrying about my finger, about catching the football, there is no need for me to be out there. I went out today in practice as if there wasn't anything wrong with my finger. I feel like that's my mindset about it."

Bryant has been a major factor during the Cowboys' 4-1 run that has put the team in position to battle for a playoff spot. Bryant has 30 catches for 525 yards and seven touchdowns in that stretch, scoring at least once in each of the last five games.

Bryant's touchdown in last week's comeback win over the Cincinnati Bengals came on the series after he injured his finger, which wasn't diagnosed as broken and needing surgery until the next day. Bryant missed five plays and scored on the second play after returning, running a crossing route and catching a fastball from Tony Romo before turning upfield for the 27-yard score.

"I didn't even think about my finger," Bryant said. "I was just trying to get out there and make a play. It was crucial part of the game. I couldn't let that bother me at that moment."

The decision on whether Bryant would continue playing was ultimately left up to the third-year receiver.

"We sure wouldn't do anything if we felt it would impact his long-term career," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on KRLD-FM Friday.

Bryant figured that he'd lose some flexibility in his finger regardless of whether he had the surgery immediately, so he doesn't feel as if he's taking too much of a risk. He also considers the reward of a potentially making the playoffs, something the Cowboys haven't done in his career, to be well worth it.

"What we've got going on, in my eyes, it's very special," Bryant said. "I just want to see where we go. I'm not predicting anything. I feel like we're doing what we do. We're playing some really good football right now. Let's see where this takes us. ...

"It was just all about, I feel like I need to be out there. I want to be a part of the team. I want to go through everything I possibly can to see if I'm OK to go out there and play. I feel like I'm good."

Information from ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins was used in this report.