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Sunday, August 1, 2010
Updated: August 2, 3:29 AM ET
Patrick Crayton: 'It's just fuel'

By Tim MacMahon
ESPNDallas.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Patrick Crayton promises that he won't cause problems.

The vocal veteran receiver understands his role with the Dallas Cowboys. The self-proclaimed insurance policy knows that there's a good chance he won't be catching passes if first-round pick Dez Bryant remains healthy after recovering from a high ankle sprain.

Patrick Crayton
Patrick Crayton is taking snaps at holder in an attempt to increase his value to the team.

Crayton accepts that, albeit reluctantly.

"Would I be pissed? Yeah," Crayton said. "It's one of those things, though. It comes with the territory. I'm not going to complain to the media or anything like that. I'm going to keep doing my job every day."

Other than dollars, the only reason it would make sense for the Cowboys not to keep Crayton is if they thought he would create distractions or chemistry problems. He certainly was the center of some drama during the offseason, when he skipped most of the voluntary workouts, requested to be released, went public with his wish and added that he "felt kind of betrayed" that the team tried to trade him during draft weekend and accused owner/general manager Jerry Jones of "messing with people's careers and people's lives."

For better or worse, the 31-year-old Crayton has always been brutally honest. If he says he won't make a spectacle out of blowing off steam after standing on the sideline, he has earned the right to be believed.

Crayton's value to the Cowboys became painfully clear the moment cornerback Orlando Scandrick crashed into Bryant's right leg near the end of Friday's practice. It served as a reminder that the Cowboys are only one play away from needing a proven receiver who had 126 catches for 1,869 yards and 16 touchdowns while bouncing between the starting lineup and third receiver role the last three seasons.

"That's why I'm glad he's here," receivers coach Ray Sherman said. "I tell you what, he is valuable."

But Crayton understands the business. Roy Williams, who will make almost $13 million this year, is guaranteed playing time despite the fact that Crayton put up similar numbers in a smaller role last season. Bryant, the first-round pick who had been the buzz of camp, will be a focal point. Crayton's concerns about the Cowboys' wanting to shed his $2 million salary weren't crazy.

When he decided to return to Valley Ranch for the final week of organized team activities, Crayton made a conscious decision to cut the complaining about his uncertain status with the Cowboys. He's basically right back to where he was when he arrived as a seventh-rounder in 2004. Well, he's much richer now, but the boulder-sized chip on the shoulder to fight for every scrap is still there.

"Right now, it's just fuel," Crayton said. "Every day I'm out here playing football, I'm good. My job right now is just to get better each day. That's all I can do."

Two things had to happen for Crayton's fears of being cut after training camp to become a rational reality. First, the top three receivers had to stay healthy. Second, second-year receiver Kevin Ogletree had to develop to the point where he could be considered a dependable player.

Neither of those things have happened, with Bryant sidelined four to six weeks and Ogletree apparently having caught whatever drops disease that ailed Williams last season.

Whether those developments guarantee a roster spot depend on the interpretation of typically confusing Jerryspeak.

"I don't want to go there," Jones said when asked if Crayton is assured a roster spot. "He's on the team. He's got a contract, and that's been my stance from the very beginning. He's there."

Crayton's here, not necessarily happy, but ready to help.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.