Cowboys' Bryant enjoys time on field
IRVING, Texas -- Dez Bryant sat at his locker Monday afternoon talking about his day -- about making a diving catch of a pass from Tony Romo, about cartwheeling into the end zone at the end of a high-stepping punt return, and about being wooed by shoe companies eager to have him wearing their gear.
Then came a big smile, and a big understatement.
"I'm having a lot of fun out there," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun with everything.
"I'm enjoying everything. I feel comfortable. I feel like I've been here a long time. I haven't had this feeling in a long time. I feel like I'm 100 percent back."
Bryant is the Dallas Cowboys' prized rookie, a receiver they thought was among the best handful of guys available in the draft but were able to snag with the 24th pick because of questions about his maturity and background.
The Cowboys did their homework and came away convinced everyone else had him pegged wrong. They traded up to get him, then team owner Jerry Jones added to the hype by giving him No. 88, the jersey worn by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and, a generation earlier, by Drew Pearson.
So far, Bryant is living up to expectations. He's already working out with the first team, getting passes thrown his way in a three-receiver alignment alongside Miles Austin and Roy Williams, plus star tight end Jason Witten.
"It's crazy -- just a lot of weapons at one time on the field," Bryant said. "It's going to be hard to stop. ... It's exciting to be able to be out there with those guys. I felt like coach put me out there for a reason. They're trying to get me to learn everything as soon as possible. I'm doing a good job and it's just great."
He's got plenty to learn, and he knows it. Like that diving catch he made; he had to leave his feet because he was in the wrong place.
"[Romo] said, 'Good catch,' but I ran the route a little deep,'" Bryant said. "He just told me to flatten it down. If he wants me to go deeper, he'll put the ball out there for me to go deep. I'm glad it's practice and not the game."
Bryant has rarely had problems on the field. It's away that trouble usually surfaces.
At Oklahoma State, he missed most of his junior year for lying to the NCAA about time he'd spent with Deion Sanders. There have been questions about other people he's chosen to surround himself with, and there were various questions about his mother's lifestyle that bubbled up before and after the draft.
He got so frustrated, he shut down his Twitter account. In another indication of how much fun he's having and how comfortable he is, Bryant expects to be tweeting again any day now.
That might not be such a great idea considering how much he's still being scrutinized.
Bryant already has made headlines for struggling to keep down breakfast at his very first practice with the Cowboys, for going home last week with food poisoning and for a slight hip pointer. On Monday, he answered questions about whether he might be jeopardizing his health by dunking in a charity basketball game.
"It is surprising," he said of all the interest surrounding his every move. "It's like, 'Are you serious?' But it's all right, it's cool. That's how it is."
So he's OK with it?
"It's something that's not even on my mind," he said. "It's not even the last thing -- it's off my mind."
Besides, he has other things to think about, from learning the playbook to deciding which shoe company to represent.
His dazzling talent, big smile and projection as a star-in-the-making for America's Team has several fighting to sign him. Under Armour's latest pitch came Monday in the form of a visit from Eric Ogbogu, the former Cowboys defensive end best known as the star of the TV commercials during which he proclaims, "We must protect this house!"
"It's a business," Bryant said, his voice reflecting far less enthusiasm than when he was talking football. "In a way, it's kind of fun. In a way, it's kind of not."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press