Dez Bryant hears it all. Every bit of it. That’s part of being a 29-year-old star in a world dominated by Twitter and Instagram.
So Bryant knows you think he’s still petulant in his ninth NFL season. And he knows you think he’s a poor route runner. He even knows you believe a pay cut is in order and that he’s not all that good anymore.
Bryant thinks you’re wrong.
“I’m Dez Bryant baby. All day,” he said Wednesday in a wide-ranging 16-minute interview at his locker.
“Just watch the tape. I feel like, at times, I look damn good. Then I get frustrated by certain things and it bothers me. That’s all I can say.
“I’m not going to sit here and act like ain’t nothing been wrong. It has. This is my life. Football is my life. It has done a lot of good for me and I take full pride in that. I accept my role 100 percent. I know who I am and I know exactly what I can do.”
Now, Bryant didn’t come right out and say it either because he doesn’t want to be a distraction - not that it matters since this team ain’t going to the playoffs - or he doesn’t want a public beef with Jason Garrett or play-caller Scott Linehan.
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But Bryant suggested most of his problems this year were caused by the Cowboys’ offensive scheme.
"I feel like for the most part I can only do what I can control," Bryant said. "A bit of times, hell yeah, frustrated, certain situations I couldn't control. Other than that I believe who I am.
“I'm a hell of a football player. I know that. I believe that. I let a lot of things get in the way that bothered me mentally. I feel like, if anything I need to deal with in the offseason, is that, only certain things I can control."
The problems are either with the way Bryant has been used within the scheme or the frustration caused by the way he’s used, which has led to a lack of focus, which has in turn led to way too many dropped passes this season.
Bryant made sure to praise Dak Prescott, but also mentioned he plans to speak with Jerry Jones as well as Garrett and Linehan in the offseason about the offense and his role in it.
Jones, Garrett, Linehan and Jones must figure out whether Bryant is giving reasons for his sub-par numbers.
Only they really know for sure. What everyone else knows is that no owner/general manager in his right mind is going to pay a receiver $12.5 million after a season like the one Bryant just had.
Bryant is scheduled to count $16.5 million against the salary cap next season. The Cowboys can create $8.5 million of cap space, if they release him or $12 million if he’s designated as a post-June 1 cut. In that scenario, he’d count $4 million against the cap in 2019.
Entering the final games against Philadelphia on Sunday, Bryant has caught 66 passes for 815 yards and six touchdowns. He hasn’t had a 100-yard game this season.
Understand, this is the same scheme that made Bryant a star from 2012-14 when he averaged 91 catches, 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns and was considered among the league’s best receivers.
He’s had a litany of injuries since signing a five-year, $70 million deal after the 2014 season. Right now, Bryant made it clear he’s not interested in taking a pay cut.
“I haven't heard no talks of that, but if it comes ... I don't know, probably not," Bryant said. "Hell, no. I believe in me, yeah."
Bryant said he’s been playing through tendonitis in his knee for the past two months. He has not appeared on the injury report.
“I'm shocked that none of you guys didn't know anything about that," Bryant said. "I've been dealing with injuries. I'm a warrior. I consider myself a warrior. If I can walk and I can move, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to try to play.
“It's probably dumb, but hey that's just who I am. I love this game and I try to push it. But for the most part, I have been pretty banged up."
He had two game-defining bad plays Sunday against Seattle in a 21-12 loss that ended the Cowboys’ playoff aspirations.
With Dallas leading 6-0, he fumbled after a short gain and Seattle recovered setting up its first touchdown. In the fourth quarter, Prescott threw a pass slightly behind him and it bounced off his hands and Seattle intercepted it.
The Seahawks drove 79 yards for a touchdown and a 21-12 lead.
You can sift through everything Bryant said Wednesday and it’s clear he
really wanted to make one just point: He believes he can still play.
The question is whether he’ll be playing in Dallas or somewhere else in 2018.
"I don't know. But if that came about, I'm still Dez Bryant," Bryant said. "I'm still going over the top. If it's there where I can grab it, I'm going to grab it. It's just who I am."
Still, Bryant made it clear he wants to stay in Dallas.
"Hell yeah," he said. "I'm a Texas boy.