Bryant handles business, focuses on game

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant will not mix business with pleasure.

Football is Bryant's first love, his true passion. It's also his job, his means of supporting an extended family that endured poverty as he grew up in the East Texas town of Lufkin.

Bryant will not allow the business side to bleed over into the game he loves. He refuses to let finances blur his focus on football.

The determination to avoid any potential distractions is why Bryant has set a deadline of sorts on his contract discussions with the Cowboys. If Jerry Jones hasn't made Bryant one of the richest receivers in NFL history by the beginning of the regular season, Bryant will put the negotiations on ice until next offseason.

Some players can balance the business and passion parts of the game. For example, Tony Romo and DeMarcus Ware performed well before signing rich midseason extensions with the Cowboys in recent years.

That's not the way Bryant is wired.

"Once the season starts, I'm all in," Bryant said. "I've got this team to worry about. ...The work that I put in, the love, the real love, the real passion that I have for this game overtakes everything."

Be honest. You might have worried that Bryant, whose personality is politely described as passionate and harshly described as volatile, would feel slighted by the slow progress of his contract talks and let that light an emotional fuse.

Heck, Bryant readily acknowledges he equates respect to contract figures, and he's done everything but buy a billboard declaring that he deserves to be paid like an elite receiver. (And he's right.)

Bryant also said it'd "be a problem" if he felt disrespected. Good thing he's matured so much during his four seasons in the league -- thanks in large part to a support system put in place by Jerry Jones -- and has the perspective to know that business isn't personal.

Does Bryant feel disrespected?

"Do I like the wait? No," said Bryant, who wore a Jordan brand hat that read "RE2PECT" honoring retiring New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter throughout training camp, perhaps as a subtle message to the Dallas front office. "But do I understand the wait? Yeah, I understand it. I understand it clearly.

"But at the same time, the No. 1 goal for me is me out here with my teammates going to war with them. That's exactly what I'm focused on."

Bryant doesn't lay awake at night thinking about how he'll spend the fortune he's going to make in the near future. If he loses sleep, it's because he's never played in an NFL playoff game. That competitive spirit is what fuels his relentless work ethic.

That work ethic -- as well as the fact that the worst-case scenario is the Cowboys use the franchise tag and pay him more than $12 million per year the next two seasons -- is why Bryant doesn't worry much about his contract talks.

The way he sees the situation is awfully simple. If he keeps producing like an elite receiver, he'll be paid like one soon enough. If that requires proving his worth again this season, so be it.

"I'm going to keep doing it," Bryant said. "I'm going to keep proving that I'm that.

"At the end of the day, like I said, my goal is to be a part of a championship team. I honestly feel like I just don't bring my talent, God-given, to the Cowboys. It's more than that. I love showing some of these players what respect really is, having each other's back, going to war with that person, respecting that person so much where you're afraid to mess up. That's what I'm about. That's when you win. That's when you win."

That's all Bryant wants to worry about once the season starts. His priorities are in the right place.