Commentary

Dez Bryant's injury stings Jones

Originally Published: July 30, 2010
By Chris Mortensen | ESPN.com

SAN ANTONIO -- Jerry Jones had been in New York and was 10 minutes from landing back in San Antonio when he got word that prized rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant had suffered a high-ankle sprain on the next-to-last play of Friday's afternoon practice at the Dallas Cowboys' training camp.

Jones would take the controversy about Bryant not carrying Roy Williams' pads -- which quarterback Tony Romo described Friday as "nothing more than a hiccup" -- over this news any day.

"We know that he's probably going to be out 4-6 weeks," the Cowboys' owner said. "It's really disappointing, and it really causes you to ask what can you do in practices that can mitigate some of the exposure to some of these injuries. It's a real challenge for everybody."

Jones and Romo, among others in the camp, initially thought the injury was less severe. Romo even joked that an extra week or two off would allow Bryant to regain "fresh legs." Nobody was joking later.

Jones second-guessed the wisdom of Bryant being on the field after a demanding week of practice for the first-round pick. Bryant got reps as a receiver and as a kick/punt returner.

"You generally are more prone to injury when you're tired," Jones said. "I just spoke with Dez. He's upset, worrying about how many preseason games he'll miss. He's really worked hard for us."

There was a hint of relief from Jones -- as with many executives and coaches -- that he won't have to worry about someone he described as a "star player" getting injured in preseason games. But Bryant is a rookie and will miss valuable practice repetitions.

Other than the return game, the Cowboys have a fairly simple plan for Bryant in 2010. He's shown such a gift for catching the ball in tight spots -- and with exceptional body control -- that there have been no plans to overload him. Because the Cowboys have an abundance of talent at offensive skill positions -- not unlike the Vikings had in 1998 when Randy Moss was a rookie -- Bryant's absence now may not prohibit him from making impact plays early in the season.

Here are more observations from the Cowboys' camp:

  • Romo continues to work on at least 15 areas he believes he can improve on. Among them are better execution on third downs and mobility nuances in the pocket to help his offensive line in pass protection.

  • Although wide receiver Roy Williams has been a disappointment the past two seasons, some of his detractors acknowledged he looks like a player who should be more productive.

  • Speaking of wideouts, as it relates to Bryant's injury, the Cowboys still hope to use Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin in the slot when they're in three-receiver sets. The Cowboys also feel better about not caving in to Patrick Crayton's offseason trade demands.

  • Just as significant to the Cowboys' offense is the development of left tackle Doug Free, who had another good practice after faring well against All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware on Thursday.

  • Even though rookie inside linebacker Sean Lee is missing time with a quad injury, the Cowboys are excited about the 236-pounder from Penn State. That won't surprise a lot of teams that were trying to trade up for Lee. The Cowboys beat 'em to the punch by moving up in April.

  • Third-year tight end Martellus Bennett looked good catching passes and blocking in his first practice of training camp. Bennett missed the first nine practices because of a sprained ankle. This is a crossroads season for Bennett, who has been expected to be a threat to compete with Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten.

  • The Cowboys are anything but alarmed about running back Felix Jones bulking up to 220. In fact, they're more excited than ever about the former first-round pick from 2008. He hasn't lost any explosiveness, and his physical development is not only the result of hard work in the weight room, it's a natural maturation for a player that is only 23 years old.

    ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen will file reports from all training camps and updates on the road via Twitter (@mortreport).