Everyone loves to revel in their own glory. If we don’t celebrate ourselves, who will? So that birthday month is absolutely necessary. Taking a healthy sick day? Totally worth it to just veg out on the couch and let the worries drift off. But when the celebrations die down and life moves on to celebrate someone else, you go from the spectacle to being just another spectator. For former Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant, there’s still plenty of wick left in his playing career, and that desire to return to the NFL burns bright.
In his prime, from 2011 to 2017, Bryant torched those lined up across from him. Standing at six-foot-two and weighing 220 pounds, Dez physically played the wide receiver position as well as the game would allow. Able to shrug off jams at the line of scrimmage, fight for contested balls and be an overall menace when it came to going down to the grass, Bryant sent defensive coordinators searching for a bottle of Advil each week. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy was responsible for 73 touchdowns, 7,459 receiving yards and 531 career receptions while in Dallas. Bryant was among the best wide receivers at the time. Unfortunately, every athlete has an expiry date. While Dez Bryant’s talent hasn’t spoiled, it’s left enough of a sour taste for the Cowboys to part ways with their former star wideout.
Today, nearly two years removed from playing his last NFL game, Dez Bryant continues to train fiercely to make it back to the NFL. Using his Instagram account as documentation, Bryant has attacked the offseason with a vigor reminiscent of his days in the league. If you want to see insane one-handed catches, crisp routes and a man desperate to recapture his former glory, then Dez Bryant is a must-follow. The clips are even more impressive considering that the receiver’s last flirtation gave him the cold shoulder.
After shopping his talent across the league following his departure from Dallas, Bryant worked out and signed with the New Orleans Saints during the 2018 regular season. A few days later, while running a routine route, Bryant hobbled off the Saints’ practice field. An MRI scan confirmed that Bryant had suffered a torn Achilles tendon. Just like that, Bryant’s comeback attempt was sidelined. Bryant didn’t let the setback distract from his goal of continuing his career in the league.
He would tweet shortly after the injury: “Things was just starting to heat up for me… I won’t question the man upstairs… this is the ultimate test.. thank you everyone for the prayers.” That belief never left Bryant, who rehabbed from a devastating injury that has ended many careers and robbed athletes of their peak performance.
Now, a year and some change later, the receiver is once again mounting a comeback. He has even convinced reigning Super Bowl MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes to toss him a few balls during his buzz-worthy workouts. But not even Mahomes can convince a franchise to allow Dez to compete for a roster spot.
The follow-up question is whether or not there’s a team out there that will give him a tryout. Bryant has wised up from the demonstrative ways of his younger years. Screaming and shouting on the sidelines, getting in the face of his quarterback, always voicing his opinion — even if it wasn’t required — all factored into a fractured locker room in his time as a Cowboy.
Bryant had the tools to make difficult catches in traffic. What continues to be a concern is his tendency to struggle on routine routes. Because of his lack of top-end speed, Bryant relies on making tightly-contested grabs. Producing epic catch-and-runs helped make Bryant into a household name. However, those drive-ending drops often drew the ire of those who would sing his praises. Despite Dez’s stardom and attention on offense, the Cowboys never made it further than the NFC divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
A single individual doesn’t make up a football team. Every Pop Warner coach is obligated to mention that fact. Immaturity issues can be ironed out, but other problems are trickier. No player is perfect. As fans and amateur scouts of the game, we tend to nitpick weaknesses that are hardly worth mentioning. However, there aren’t too many players entering the 2020 season at 31-years-old and two years removed from taking a snap in the league. Yet Bryant has overcome the naysayers before. From the fans who were critical of the Cowboys selecting him in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft to the critics who felt his brash attitude would tear the Cowboys apart, Bryant has proven his detractors wrong.
As Dez Bryant works his way back into the pro football fraternity, he will have to maneuver past obstacles bigger than the defenders on the field. Preconceived notions about older players like him, his troubled past in Dallas and lengthy absence from the game are all significant hurdles to his return. But we’re talking about Dez Bryant — a man who throws up the ‘X’ after every touchdown. The glory days of his youth may be behind him, but the burning desire has not been extinguished.