- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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OXNARD, Calif. -- Now that he's gotten rid of his walking boot, Dez Bryant has adjusted his goal.
The Dallas Cowboys' first-round pick is determined to play in the final two preseason games. The rookie receiver said Saturday that he plans to push to return against the Houston Texans on Aug. 28, which would be four weeks and one day after he suffered a high right ankle sprain during a training camp practice at the Alamodome.
"The way I feel, my goal is Houston," Bryant said with a big smile after Saturday afternoon's practice. "Hopefully, if I feel really good, I'm going to get in their ear and beg them."
The original timetable was four to six weeks for Bryant's return. His optimism was shared by owner/general manager Jerry Jones after the team's medical staff gave Bryant permission to stop wearing the walking boot that had kept his ankle stable the last two weeks.
"He's doing well and we expected him to do well, by the way," Jones said. "We had expectations, and I am hopeful we will have him back for those last two preseason games."
For the first time since suffering the injury, Bryant did some cardio work and participated in light rehabilitation drills with other injured players. He had no problem balancing on his right leg.
"I felt pain-free," he said. "I hope they have something harder for me because what I'm doing now is kind of light. ... The only thing that's hard about it is just watching the other guys run routes, knowing I can't be out there to help."
Bryant also played catch with Miles Austin before practice. He jumped to catch one pass and landed without wincing.
"No pain at all. I'm fine," Bryant said. "At the same time, I still know I can't cut the way I want to. That's why they want to get me back 100 percent.
"It doesn't hurt when I cut, but I know my body. I know when I can cut, and I can't cut the way I want to."
Bryant had a sensational first week of training camp before suffering the injury when cornerback Orlando Scandrick accidentally fell on Bryant's leg while breaking up a pass.
It appeared that Bryant, whom the Cowboys selected with the 24th overall pick after trading up three spots, could challenge Roy E. Williams for a starting job. After missing most of the preseason, Bryant will probably begin the season as the team's No. 3 receiver.
The dilemma is that if he returns too soon, there's more of a chance for a setback, perhaps turning this into a problem that bothers him all season.
Wait too long, though, and he'll miss even more practice time. He needs it as much as any rookie since he played only three games last season at Oklahoma State.
"I just want to get the feel for the game," Bryant said.
Receivers coach Ray Sherman has been encouraged by the way Bryant has studied while he's been sidelined. Sherman said Bryant has been attentive during meetings and practices and doesn't anticipate him blowing many assignments despite his abbreviated training camp.
Whether or not he starts, the Cowboys expect Bryant to make a major impact as a rookie.
"He tells me every day that he's feeling good," Sherman said. "He's feeling really good. Hopefully, he can be out here soon. I don't know how soon that's going to be. This is what he loves to do. I just can't wait until we get him back out here."
The injury hasn't dimmed Bryant's expectations for this season.
"I still feel like I can help out," he said. "I will be able to help out and do the things I have been doing."
1dEric D. Williams