- Tim MacMahon, ESPNDallas.com
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IRVING, Texas -- A day after engaging in sideline confrontations with two of the Dallas Cowboys' captains, wide receiver Dez Bryant expressed love and respect for Tony Romo and Jason Witten, teammates he considers role models.
Bryant isn't apologetic for his actions during the Cowboys' 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, but he's adamant his sideline demeanor was borne out of competitive fire, not anger toward Romo and Witten.
"Tony Romo and Jason Witten, those are our leaders," Bryant said Monday. "Those are our main guys. The reason why I'm able to voice my opinion is because those guys helped me become who I am to where I can do that. Whenever I do things, I promise y'all, man, it's all out of trying to keep our team motivated, keeping the passion, letting people know this game is important to us."
Bryant yelled at Romo, who was seated on the bench next to quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson and head coach Jason Garrett, after an incomplete pass to Dwayne Harris late in the third quarter, a possession that ended with the Cowboys kicking a field goal to take a 13-7 lead. Bryant, who had only two catches at the time and finished the game with three receptions for 72 yards and two touchdowns, insists he wasn't demanding the ball.
Video posted on NFL.com of Bryant's passionate interaction with Romo confirms his version of the story. Bryant animatedly discusses the coverage the Lions played on the previous snap, screaming, "Hey, if those [expletives] press me, it's over! It's over!" He points in Romo's face to emphasize his point, then engages in a discussion about strategy with Romo.
"We're good on that, Tony!" Bryant shouted moments later. "We're the best in the NFL at that! We're the best in the NFL!"
The video also shows Bryant profanely encouraging teammates, shouting that the Cowboys had worked too hard to lose the game.
Bryant and Witten got into a shouting match after the Lions scored the go-ahead touchdown with 12 seconds remaining. It became heated enough that inactive defensive end DeMarcus Ware stepped between the two, grabbed Bryant by the shoulder pads and yelled in his face.
Bryant admitted he was upset about Detroit's scoring drive, saying the veterans were attempting to calm him down and get him focused for the Cowboys' desperation drive.
Well aware of the media firestorm that has ensued, Bryant made it clear he has the same respect for Romo and Witten that he did as a rookie who was in awe of them. He credits Romo and Witten for teaching him practice habits and sharing life experiences that have helped him overcome obstacles from a dysfunctional background to develop into an elite NFL receiver.
"The relationship me, Tony and Witt have, it's huge," Bryant said. "Our relationship is great. On and off the field, it's outstanding.
"I think what most people don't get is everything isn't supposed to be peaches and cream during games. There's always something that doesn't go right, the way you think it should. It's the nature of football, period.
"As far as our relationship, Witt did nothing wrong to me. Tony did nothing wrong to me. Witt loves me like if I was his little brother, Tony loves me like if I was his little brother and I love them for just being in my life, helping me change a lot in my life, helping me see different things about myself that I didn't see."
After Sunday's game, Witten said he loved Bryant like a brother and praised the receiver's passion and work ethic, saying sometimes emotions get heated on the sideline during games. Romo said Bryant has never been a "me guy" and downplayed the significance of the emotional outbursts.
"There will be some stories about it, I'm sure, but everyone in the locker room knows there is nothing to it," Romo said. "It's not like this guy is being deceitful or trying to do something that helps himself. He literally just cares about winning."
Bryant, who is in his fourth NFL season, has never publicly indicated that he wasn't getting the ball enough. In fact, after he was held to four catches for 22 yards in a season-opening win over the New York Giants, Bryant said he understood why Romo threw primarily to other options and basked in the success of his teammates.
"Dez is as well-liked a guy on our football team by his teammates and by the coaching staff," Garrett said. "He's very passionate about the game, he loves football, he loves his football team and he wants to win. One of the things he has to learn is to channel all that positive stuff, all that positive emotion, he has to channel it and focus it to the task at hand.
"That's something we talk to everybody on our football team about. It's really important you're able to do that. Go to the next play, get yourself ready for the next situation, and Dez has done that a lot. He has matured a lot in the last three, four years since he's been with our football team, and that's an area where he has to get better. It's something we addressed with him during the game, something we addressed with him after the game, but you never want to take away that passion, that spirit that he has."
Bryant said he has no concern that he lost any credibility in the locker room due to his actions Sunday because of the strong nature of his relationship with teammates.
Bryant understands he is perceived by some to be a diva or prima donna. That doesn't bother him, he said, because his coaches and teammates know the truth.
"Dez is the farthest thing from that," Garrett said. "Dez is a great teammate. He loves this team. He's very passionate about football. He's a great competitor. He loves to work at it. He loves to practice. He loves to play. He wants to win as much as anybody I've ever been around.
"His teammates love him. His coaches love him. Again, the only issue there is we've got to channel all that enthusiasm and channel all that emotion in a positive direction. He understands that. It's part of maturing."
A day after engaging in sideline confrontations with two of the Dallas Cowboys' captains, wide receiver Dez Bryant expressed love and respect for Tony Romo and Jason Witten, teammates he considers role models.