MIND OVER MATTER: Maturing Dez Bryant sees himself as a veteran mentor, says ‘No more games, no more wondering’
PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant talks with media after hitting in the Reliant Home Run Derby benefiting the Salvation Army at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. (Brad Loper/The Dallas Morning News)
ARLINGTON – Dez Bryant says he has a different mindset entering his fourth NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys wide receiver now looks at himself as a veteran.
“There’s no more games, no more wondering,” Bryant said Wednesday while participating with Cowboys teammates and head coach Jason Garrett in the Reliant Home Run Derby at Rangers Ballpark. “I know what I’m doing. I got to come in and do what I did at the end of last year. And I hope to build on that.”
Bryant was referring to the final eight games of the season when he caught 72 passes for 879 yards and 10 touchdowns. That strong finish allowed the 24-year-old to continue to steadily improve statistically over each of his three years in the league.
The former first-round pick appeared in all 16 games despite battling multiple injuries in 2012. Bryant fractured his left index finger in a Dec. 9 victory over Cincinnati. The injury required surgery but Bryant played through it, choosing to wear a specialized splint and glove.
“It’s never going to be normal, but I promise it’s never going to be an issue,” Bryant said Wednesday. “I’m ready to go. I’ve been catching footballs and I actually feel like I’ve been catching better, so I’m ready to go.”
In the final game of the season, Bryant suffered a lower back injury during the fourth quarter. Bryant was in so much pain that he couldn’t stand on his own. Asked about the back injury Wednesday, Bryant admitted that it took him a little longer than expected to fully recover.
“But the back is not an issue now,” he said. “It’s all about getting into OTAs and trying to help out all of the younger guys, make sure everybody is on the same page, and ready to go for this 2013 season.”
Two of the younger guys Bryant was likely referring to are 2013 draft picks Terrance Williams and Joseph Randle. Bryant spoke highly of both, mentioning that he expects Williams, a wide receiver out of Baylor, and Randle, a running back out of Oklahoma State, to do “big things” while wearing a Dallas Cowboys uniform.
PHOTO: Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr (39) breaks up a pass intended for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon (13) at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, November 18, 2012. (Vernon Bryant/The Dallas Morning News)
ARLINGTON – Brandon Carr says he doesn’t model his game after any other NFL cornerback. Why would he? Playing the way he did during his first four seasons in the league earned him a five-year, $50.1 million contract from the Dallas Cowboys.
And although he admits the Cowboys defensive unit has been watching film of teams like the Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks to get examples of how Monte Kiffin’s defense is designed to be run, don’t expect to see a duplicate out of Carr’s team on Sundays.
“We see how those guys get after it, but we’re trying to make our own mark on this defense,” Carr said Wednesday during a charity home run derby at Rangers Ballpark.
Carr called learning the new scheme an “ongoing process.” When it is run correctly, opposing offenses will have a difficult time identifying if the Cowboys are in zone, cover-two or man-to-man, according to Carr.
“It allows the corners to be aggressive at the line of scrimmage, every play challenging receivers,” Carr explained. “It allows us to go out there and dictate the flow of the game.”
The Cowboys have a strong group of cornerbacks in Carr, Morris Claiborne, Orlando Scandrick and B.W. Webb. How those four are able to perform in Kiffin’s defense will go a long way in determining if the switch to a 4-3 scheme is a success.
Count Carr, who led the Cowboys with three interceptions and 11 passes defended last season, among the players who don’t seem to mind the switch.
“It allows me to be the corner that I want to be,” he said. “Go up there each play and challenge the receiver. That’s what I came into this league doing and that’s what I’ve been doing for some time in this league, and that’s how I made my name.
“It allows me to go back up to the line of scrimmage and it allows Claiborne to do the same thing.”