OXNARD, Calif. – No player has looked better offensively in camp than Dez Bryant.
Bryan'ts pre-training camp arrest has not affected the third-year wide receiver’s play so far in training camp, and coach Jason Garrett points to one factor: conditioning.
Last year the lockout prevented Bryant from working out with the Cowboys' strength and conditioning coaches, and while he was in shape, he was not in shape. Let’s allow Garrett to explain:
“I think he understands the importance of being physically ready to play,” Garrett said. “I think he’s been in the offense so he understands what we’re asking him to do more. Dez is an interesting guy. It’s something I’ve talked to him a lot about. He’s one of those guys, he’s about four percent body fat. He takes his shirt off and he’s carved out of a mountain. There’s a sense that, ‘Boy, I’m in shape. I’m ready to go.’
"The guys that I was around as a player and the best receivers I’ve been around as a coach, they could run all day. They could run all day. I tell our guys all the time, Alvin Harper, for all of his craziness as a player, Alvin Harper would run 16 110s at 8:30 in the morning with the 8:30 group and be done around 9 o’clock. He’d turn around and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll run with you guys at 9:30.’ Sixteen 110s at 9:30. Now Alvin has a track background. He was a great track athlete at Tennessee, so those guys have a little bit of an advantage that way, but he could run all day long. Michael Irvin could run all day long. He runs a nine (go) route, runs back and runs another nine and a deep eight and he runs a deep over route. They could run all day long, come back in the huddle and here we go.
“Dez is one of those guys as a young player, ‘I’m in shape. I’m 214 pounds. I’m carved out of a mountain. I have 4 percent body fat.’ Dez, the description for you is you have to be able to run all day long. All day long. I can call 15 nine routes, you run them and you run back and you run it again. That’s the point you want to get to, and Dez is understanding that more and more. He did a great job at different times last year fighting through injuries. He had the thigh deal going. He had some other things he fought through, so he has the mental toughness to do it. He just has to continue to understand the importance of it because when he’s good and explosive and fast and coming in and out of his cuts, he’s hard to defend. You’re seeing a lot of that already.”
Bryant struggled in the second halves of games last year in part because of conditioning and, according to Garrett, some wasted energy. Bryant caught 26 of his 63 passes in the second half for 370 yards and two touchdowns.
“A lot of you guys get to our games early and you see this guy out there ... throwing the ball 80 yards in the air and he’s got an unbelievable arm and he’s running around like he’s 10 years old,” Garret said. “Nobody loves football more than Dez Bryant. He wears out the trainers. He wears out the equipment guys, ‘Throw me passes. Throw me passes.' It’s unbelievable. He loves the game. But you have to channel that, and we’ve talked to him a lot about preparing yourself for practice. We need you in these practice reps. We need you in these game reps. We need you throughout the game. So you have to be able to channel that energy and be mature enough to know when you need to be at your best, and I think he has a better understanding of that.”