|ESPN.com: NFL||[Print without images]|
Dez Bryant, who fractured his left index finger Sunday against the Bengals, has decided to play Sunday against the Steelers unless he's told he can't, a source close to the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver told ESPN on Tuesday morning.
"Unless the doctors say he medically can't do it, Dez is going to play," the source said.
There is significant swelling in Bryant's finger and he must understand that if he plays, the finger might be compromised for the remainder of his career in terms of flexibility -- a significant issue for a wide receiver, a league source told ESPN. Pain tolerance isn't the issue for Bryant.Bryant is scheduled to visit team doctors Wednesday to determine how his left index finger feels taped and with a splint. Bryant's availability for practice hasn't been determined, but it's doubtful he'll participate.
Earlier Tuesday, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that Bryant will have the "ultimate decision" about whether he will play again this season.
"I know he wants to play," Jones said on his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. "Dez will be the ultimate decision-maker on surgery or playing with some kind of padding.
"Make no mistake about it. Dez is champing at the bit and wants to take the route of playing."
The Cowboys also must still determine how the fracture can be protected and whether Bryant will be able to catch the football with protection on his finger, the source said.
Jones' comments Tuesday differ from those of coach Jason Garrett, who said Monday that it'd be a "medical decision first and foremost."
"The doctors are going to say, 'Hey, this is what it is, and this is what we feel like you need to do,' and then we're going to say, 'OK, well, what are the other options,' like you do with any injury, and you go forward and you make your best decision, not only for now, but for the future," Garrett said. "Dez is very passionate about playing. Anyone who's been around him knows that.
"... He's just one of those guys. He loves to play. He's very emotional about the game, very passionate about the game, so we're going to do everything we can to give him a chance to play. At the same time, there's a medical decision, as well, that we have to factor into this thing, and we'll do the right thing."
Bryant had X-rays on Monday, which revealed the fracture. The receiver doesn't know whether he'll be able to play through the injury or have season-ending surgery.
"We (are) just going to have to find out," Bryant told ESPNDallas.com in a text message Monday night, noting that he'd know more Wednesday, when the Cowboys return to practice.
Jones said former Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens had a similar problem with one of his fingers, and elected to put off surgery until after the season.
The team sent Bryant to meet with a hand specialist Monday, Garrett said. It originally had been feared that Bryant had torn ligaments in the finger, sources told ESPN.
Bryant suffered the injury on a 6-yard slant route after he was tackled by Adam "Pacman" Jones. Television replays showed him shaking his finger and pulling on it as he lined up for the next play. He went to the sideline after a DeMarco Murray run and missed the next five plays. On the second play after his return, he caught a 27-yard touchdown pass to spark the Cowboys' rally.Should surgery be required, it would mark the second time in Bryant's three years he would end the season on injured reserve. He missed the final four games of the 2010 season with a broken ankle.
The potential loss comes at a time when Bryant is playing his best football and the Cowboys need him most. He has caught a touchdown pass in five straight games and has 75 catches for 1,028 yards. He leads the Cowboys with nine touchdowns.
If the Cowboys don't have Bryant for any length of time, the team will have five wide receivers on its active roster, with the most accomplished being former Pro Bowler Miles Austin.
Austin is third on the team in catches (55) and yards (819), but he's second on the team with five touchdown receptions.
In Sunday's victory over Cincinnati, Bryant finished with four catches for 50 yards to go with his touchdown.
Bryant's day pushed him past 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. He is 10th in receiving yards and one of just 11 receivers to have at least 1,000 yards this season.
If he heads to injured reserve, he will be the seventh starter the Cowboys have lost to injury this season, joining safety Barry Church, linebacker Sean Lee, linebacker Bruce Carter, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and punter Chris Jones.
ESPN reporter Josina Anderson, ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder and ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon, Todd Archer and Calvin Watkins contributed to this report.