Garrett on Bryant: 'He's only scratched the surface'

OXNARD, Calif. -- His bosses beam with pride about Dez Bryant’s maturation over the past year, firmly believing that the best is yet to come for the Cowboys’ immensely talented fourth-year receiver.

“He’s only scratched the surface,” coach Jason Garrett said after gushing about Bryant’s growth on and off the field.

A year ago, Jerry Jones was so irate about Bryant’s misdemeanor arrest stemming from an altercation with his mother that the owner/general manager had refused to speak to the receiver before the Cowboys reported to training camp. At the time, Jones compared himself to a parent who was so angry that he was afraid he’d go too far if he talked to his child.

Now, as the Cowboys prepare to begin camp, Jones sounds like a proud papa when he discusses Bryant, who followed up his breakout year with a controversy-free offseason.

“I think that you have to recognize how much he’s focusing in on and working to do the right things, not only on the field but off the field,” Jones said. “I can tell you that he is, he has. Those are tangible things. They’re not just commitment or some kind of conversation. He’s really doing it and he is exciting.

“It’s exciting to see progress with someone who can help a lot of people, plus as a ballplayer, it’s exciting to see him make that progress there. I’m hesitant to use the word ‘uncomfortable’ or ‘comfortable.’ I’m just impressed at this stage with how he’s handled himself.

“Those that are the closest to him, those that have a dog in the fight, so to speak … it’s a consensus that he’s making great strides.”

Garrett describes Bryant, whose rough upbringing has been well chronicled, as a “guy that’s grown so much.” That was evident in the second half of last season, when Bryant exploded for 879 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, finishing the year with 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns.

As Garrett said, Bryant has always had great passion for the game. But Bryant had to learn how to be a professional and find peace in his personal life, which he accomplished with a lot of help from inside and outside the franchise.

“I think as much as anything else, he’s been better from a habit standpoint in his life and in his work as a football player,” Garrett said. “What’s great and gratifying for us as coaches is you preach that, you preach that and you preach that, and then you see the results that come from it.”

It was gratifying for the Cowboys to see the results for Bryant last season. They’re giddy about what’s to come.