Deion Sanders: Dez Bryant needs help

Updated: March 25, 2011, 9:42 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon and Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

Deion Sanders, who stopped mentoring Dez Bryant months ago, strongly criticized the Dallas Cowboys receiver in reaction to the criminal trespass warning given to Bryant over the weekend at a Dallas mall.

"I'm upset but not surprised whatsoever," Sanders said on The Ben & Skin Show on ESPN 103.3 FM in Dallas.

Sanders described Bryant's behavior at NorthPark Center on Saturday as "ignorant."

The 2010 first-round pick was issued the warning after an off-duty police officer requested that Bryant and his friends pull up their pants because their underwear was showing and Bryant responded with repeated profanity, according to the police report.

Bryant He needs help. He needs help. I told the Cowboys from day one that he needs help. Matter of fact, they have a team in place to help him. But you cannot tell a grown man what to do.

-- Hall of Famer Deion Sanders
on Cowboys WR Dez Bryant
Bryant, who was stung by Sanders' comments, is adamant that the only thing he did wrong at the mall is use profanity toward a police officer, whom the receiver claims shoved him in the back as he was escorting him outside.

"I feel like the cop was in the wrong here more than anything," Bryant told ESPNDallas.com earlier Friday, before his ban from the mall was lifted. "Don't just make it seem like I went off and had a hot head for no reason. That's the only thing I did wrong -- I used profanity."

Still Sanders said Bryant has issues stemming from his difficult childhood.

"He needs help. He needs help," Sanders said. "I told the Cowboys from day one that he needs help. Matter of fact, they have a team in place to help him. But you cannot tell a grown man what to do."

Sanders, who was recently selected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and serves as a mentor to many NFL players, said he ended his relationship with Bryant over the summer because of the receiver's dishonesty.

"I wish Deion would come to me as a man and talk to me," Bryant told ESPNDallas.com. "I've been reaching out to Deion. I've never done anything wrong to Deion or disrespected him. I've never lied to Deion."

The NCAA suspended Bryant in September 2009 for the rest of that season for lying about having lunch with Sanders. No other rules violations were found, but Sanders said it bothered him that he took a lot of the blame for Bryant's lie.

However, Sanders said the relationship continued until he became concerned that Bryant could negatively influence children in Sanders' youth program. Sanders added that he felt like he could not help Bryant.

"I don't have a problem with you lying to me. That's one thing," Sanders said. "But when you lie to yourself as a man, you have a serious problem and that's where this kid is. And I can't condone it. I really can't. It tarnishes everything else I'm trying to develop in these kids [in his youth program]. I can't allow you to poison other kids that I'm trying to mentor and take to another level."

NorthPark Center officials announced Friday evening that they will allow Bryant to return to the premises.

Bryant's adviser, Texas Senator Royce West, spoke with mall officials to resolve the matter.

"I'm done with this," Bryant said Friday night. "It's not a big issue, I'm just getting ready to play this year. I know I'm doing fine, this is old news to me."

Bryant and mall officials have apologized to each other.

David Wells, another Bryant adviser, met with mall officials Wednesday to start the process of lifting the wide receiver's ban from the mall.

"Mr. Bryant is welcomed to join the millions of valued customers who shop and dine at NorthPark Center," mall spokesperson David Margulies said in a statement. "NorthPark Center considers last weekend's issues to be closed."

Wells said at midweek that he didn't believe Bryant would be banned for long because of the amount of shopping the wide receiver does at the mall. Several businesses contacted Wells offering encouragement.

"We're glad this is over and can go back to normal," Wells said.

Margulies said earlier that Bryant didn't have his pants sagging but his friend did, confirming what Bryant told ESPNDallas.com.

Bryant I wish Deion would come to me as a man and talk to me. I've been reaching out to Deion. I've never done anything wrong to Deion or disrespected him. I've never lied to Deion.

-- Cowboys WR Dez Bryant

Meanwhile, Bryant said Sanders has refused to talk to him since he backed out of his marketing deal with Under Armour, a popular shoe and apparel company that also outfits Sanders' youth athletic programs. The deal fell apart, according to Bryant, because he determined during last year's minicamps that the company's cleats weren't the right fit for his feet.

Bryant, who wears Nike cleats but does not have a shoe deal, said Sanders has ignored repeated text messages from him since then.

"I never knew the reason for Deion not saying anything to me," Bryant said. "The only thing I can believe is that when I stopped talking to Under Armour, Deion stopped talking to me. I never knew what Prime's problem was.

"That's my decision. That has nothing to do with Prime. That made me feel he must be getting something from Under Armour."

Sanders praised the effort of Wells, whom Sanders has had a relationship with since playing for the Cowboys in the 1990s. But Sanders made it clear that he has no intention of being involved in Bryant's life again.

"I haven't spoken to the kid," Sanders said. "I have no desire to speak to the kid. In regards to me, I can forgive, but I can't forget. You can't tarnish the other things that I have going on and the other kids. It's sort of like I can't allow something to poison the fruit of many other kids. I can't do it, so I cut off those ties a long time ago."

Bryant said he no longer wants a relationship with Sanders, one of his idols as a child growing up in Lufkin, Texas. Bryant just wants a man-to-man conversation with his former mentor to discuss their differences, especially after learning of Sanders' pointed comments Friday.

"It bothers me more than anything," Bryant said. "I've looked up to Deion my whole life. I've never done anything wrong to him.

"The only thing I can think of is the Under Armour situation. That's the only thing. He didn't want me to leave Under Armour, but I had to do what's best for me. That's the whole truth."

Tim MacMahon and Calvin Watkins cover the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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