Jerry Jones challenges Dez Bryant

IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones, too often a willing enabler, was offered an excuse for Dez Bryant. He opted for a verbal push.

Consider that progress.

Even if his theory doesn’t necessarily stand up to statistical examination.

Jones was asked how much he thought the deep thigh bruise Bryant suffered in last season’s opener affected the dynamic young receiver last season, something Bryant mentioned as a significant issue last week. Jones acknowledged that Bryant dealt with the injury throughout the year but quickly put the onus back on Bryant.

“I don’t know that it impacted some of the things that he needs to work on, and we need to work on as a coaching staff, to get him the ball and get him into plays,” Jones said. “When he would lose concentration in the last part of the game, I don’t know if that was because of conditioning. I suspect it could’ve been.

“That’s not be critical, but I suspect that, rather (than) the injury had anything to do with that or not, those are the things that we’re working on so he can be more impactful in the latter part of the game and we can do the kinds of things we need to do to get him the ball.”

It’s a good thing that the owner/general manager is pushing Bryant to reach his potential. Bryant needs Valley Ranch authority figures challenging him on a regular basis to reach his immense potential.

But Bryant’s fourth-quarter fades were an early-season storyline that was solved throughout the course of the season. At the end of the season, he had 244 yards and two touchdowns in fourth quarters. The first quarters (330 yards, five touchdowns) were the only frames that Bryant had better production. Bryant also had a 26-yard catch to set up the winning field goal in the Cowboys’ overtime victory against the Redskins, earning praise from quarterback Tony Romo for making a smart route adjustment based on the coverage played by cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

That doesn’t mean Bryant shouldn’t get better. Much, much better.

Conditioning is certainly a part of that. Bryant readily admits that, bragging about the progress he’s seeing in his body while working with six-time Super Bowl champion strength coach Mike Woicik.

“I feel like this year, I'm spending more time focusing on my body and making sure everything is right,” said Bryant, who gloated on Twitter this week that his body fat was measured at 3.1 percent.

Bryant was pretty good last year, catching 63 passes for 928 yards and nine touchdowns in his second NFL season. It’s a testament to his talent that a lot of folks consider that underachieving.

Rest assured that Bryant has plenty of people pushing him to reach his potential, a list that includes Valley Ranch’s big boss.