Dez Bryant eyes 2,000-yard mark
The 24-year-old Bryant believes his 2012 breakout season, when he caught 92 passes for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, was just the beginning. Bryant had 50 catches for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns in the final eight games, numbers that would be among the best in NFL history if projected over a full season, and production that Bryant believes he can build upon.
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"That's still scratching the surface," Bryant said in a telephone interview with ESPNDallas.com. "It's only going to get better, to be honest. I still have a lot to give. I feel like nobody's seen anything. Nothing.
"I feel like it can be a lot more than that. That's just being honest. I honestly feel like [2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns] can potentially happen."
Bryant, who played the final three games of the season with a broken index finger that required postseason surgery, said his confidence comes from his maturation, improved knowledge of the Cowboys' offensive scheme and passion to win.
The Cowboys finished 8-8 and lost the regular-season finale with the NFC East title at stake for the second consecutive season. A lower-back injury forced Bryant to leave the season-ending loss to the Washington Redskins, has kept him from running routes this offseason and might prevent him from being ready to fully participate in organized team activities this offseason.
Bryant, who needed a wheelchair to leave FedEx Field that night, said it took him a week to emotionally get over the loss to the Redskins. He has used that feeling as fuel this offseason, when he's been able to lift weights, run straight ahead and catch passes since the cast was removed from his hand.
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"It just makes you want it even more," Bryant said. "I'm so confident. I view myself as an up-and-coming leader. That's how I view myself.
"With that attitude, you have to feel like anything's possible. That's how I feel."
Bryant credited former Cowboys receivers coach Jimmy Robinson, who was reassigned to a consultant role with the team this offseason, for playing a critical role in teaching him how to be a pro and strive for perfection. However, Bryant said he believes new receivers coach Derek Dooley, the former head coach at the University of Tennessee, can help him bring his game to a new level.
Bryant emerged as Tony Romo's No. 1 receiver last season, and that rapport continues to develop. While he hasn't been able to run routes for Romo this offseason, Bryant said they have communicated frequently, with Romo often sending the receiver inspirational text messages.
Bryant, who slid to the 24th overall pick in the 2010 draft due to off-the-field issues that plagued him during his first two years in the NFL, has avoided trouble this offseason. He has acknowledged that he was forced to mature after being arrested in July after an incident with his mother, Angela. The Class A misdemeanor family violence charge was conditionally dismissed in November, meaning it will be dropped if Bryant attends counseling and is not charged with any crimes for a year.
It's only going to get better, to be honest. I still have a lot to give. I feel like nobody's seen anything. Nothing.” -- Dez Bryant
Bryant volunteered to speak at a rally called Dallas Men Against Abuse on Saturday, admitting that he made a mistake and challenging men to "X domestic violence out of your life." Bryant said his productive offseason is part of the continuing maturation process.
"That's all having to do with understanding me being a Dallas Cowboy, me knowing who I am as a person, just understanding that I'm a grown man," Bryant said. "It's time to be a leader. It's time to step up and just do what you need to do. Hold yourself accountable."
That's a message Bryant said he has taken to heart after hearing it over and over from Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who recently expressed pride with Bryant's progress.
"He's just a really, really good young man," Garrett told reporters at the recent NFL owners meetings. "He's made great strides over the last three years. We feel good about the progress he's made, not only as a player but as a person. We all know from the background from where he came; he's really grown a lot.
"I think the consistency that he's shown in his personal life spills over [into] the consistency he's shown as a player and his production he's shown on Sundays."
Bryant believes he can build on that production and help lead the Cowboys into the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"No matter what I've done last year or what anybody did in Dallas last year, it don't mean nothing," Bryant said. "Stats mean nothing. You want to win. At the end of the day, you want to be strapping up for the playoffs.
"That's the way I go about my business. I love to work. I love grinding. I feel like I'm better under pressure. Whenever you want to win like I do, anything is possible."
Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com contributed to this report.